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The Privacy Advisor | From deputy CPO to DPA: Bermuda's first-ever privacy commissioner Related reading: Protecting personal data in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands

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Pursuing a dream job can be a fascinating chase. For many, an application for that ideal position, in an industry, is a shot in the dark based more on hope than any kind of certainty.

But that didn't deter Alex White, CIPP/A, CIPP/C, CIPP/E, CIPP/G, CIPP/US, CIPM, CIPT, FIP, when a job alert popped up for the position of privacy commissioner in Bermuda. As it turns out, White's shot in the dark proved to be a direct hit: He was named Bermuda's first-ever privacy commissioner in December.

Alex White, CIPP/A, CIPP/C, CIPP/E, CIPP/G, CIPP/US, CIPM, CIPT, FIP

"I’ve long been fascinated by the position of privacy commissioner, perhaps especially because we don’t have them in the U.S.," said White, who served as deputy chief privacy officer for the state of South Carolina prior to his new appointment. "Of course, there’s the regulatory aspect, but I love the idea of having an office that leads community conversations about privacy issues and values. What I might do in such a position is, honestly, the type of thing I would daydream about."

Beyond the opportunity to be a commissioner, White said Bermuda's privacy landscape and the chance to have "a globally significant voice" was enticing. That opportunity was planted back in 2016 when Bermuda's Personal Information Protection Act took effect. White views it as "a well-crafted law in line with the growing international convergence on privacy."

An insurance law background also drew White to Bermuda, which has a world-renowned reinsurance market.

"The reinsurance industry based here operates throughout the world and contains some of the most talented risk management professionals," White said. "I knew it would be an exciting group of colleagues to work with to develop best practices for cyber and privacy risk."

In his pitch to be commissioner, White discussed an approach that involves integrating privacy into business processes without organizations sacrificing profit or success. He said the "privacy versus" narrative is a "frustratingly common refrain," but embedding privacy can be one of the many "win-win scenarios" he believes in.

"My overriding strategy is to develop a framework of mid-Atlantic privacy that retains the fundamental importance of privacy but does so by helping businesses succeed," White said. "The general idea is to create a regulatory environment that encourages businesses to act ethically and incentivizes adoption of best practices that match with international convergence and consensus."

To be sure, the move to Bermuda represents a step back in terms of the population White serves. Bermuda's population of approximately 65,000 is smaller than South Carolina's 5 million citizens. But White described bringing the same "startup culture" that he helped devised in South Carolina to Bermuda, yet admitted there are undoubtedly many differences between the two posts. The chief difference will be overseeing both private and public sector entities. In addition, the challenge of working with emerging financial technology industries, like blockchain and cryptocurrency, in what he describes as "sandbox-style arrangements" — to learn mutually beneficial approaches to both — excites White more than concerns him, he said. 

White also hopes to boost government privacy through his South Carolina experience.

"National, state and local governments have very different missions, so they each collect very different data to accomplish those missions," White said. "Bermuda offers a unique range of possibilities on this front, as its governmental bodies operate on all those levels simultaneously."

Citizen outreach and helping citizens understand their data rights under PIPA is another point of action on White's agenda, which also includes advocating for the individual economic opportunity PIPA can provide. Specifically, White said the PIPA's privacy officer requirement will help boost employment opportunities.

Internationally, White hopes to put Bermuda on the privacy map as a known and regarded player in the space. While he recognizes the aforementioned opportunity to be a global voice, becoming one requires action and proactivity.

"I also want to ensure that our standards match international norms to ease compliance requirements on multinational businesses and that we can have a voice representing Bermuda in the creation of that consensus," White said.

Photo by Michael Marcon on Unsplash

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