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The Privacy Advisor | Giovanni Buttarelli named IAPP's 2019 Privacy Leadership Award winner Related reading: Notes from the IAPP Europe, 23 Feb. 2024



The International Association of Privacy Professionals has announced that Giovanni Buttarelli is the recipient of the organization’s 2019 Privacy Leadership Award. Buttarelli was not in attendance to receive his award when it was presented today at the IAPP’s Global Privacy Summit in Washington, but he did provide a video acceptance speech.

The IAPP Privacy Leadership Award is given annually to individuals who demonstrate an “ongoing commitment to furthering privacy policy, promoting recognition of privacy issues and advancing the growth and visibility of the privacy profession.”

In a phone interview prior to the award presentation, Buttarelli said the honor caught him by surprise as he assumed there would be no more recognition after being named the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s 2019 Privacy Champion Award winner in January.

“With this IAPP award, I see it comes from a bigger community, where some work on fundamental data protection and others are dealing with modern implementation of data protection,” Buttarelli said. “It’s an organization that interests me and I have many friends and colleagues there, which makes this something I should only be proud of.”

Buttarelli’s leadership background has depth to it, but none of his roles has needed his leading presence more than his current post as European Data Protection Supervisor. Buttarelli is in the final months of his five-year term as EDPS and plans to apply for a second term.

Buttarelli recalled applying for his current EDPS term and understanding the EU Parliament’s desire for “an architect to not only let the EU lead and preserve its values, but to build privacy bridges and consider the international dimension.” In addition to assuming the duties of monitoring and ensuring the protection of personal data and privacy, Buttarelli’s leadership has shown most with his desire to further the conversation in untested areas of data protection and privacy.

“I’ve been the first to invest energy into the intersection of data protection and antitrust, and put a focus on other privacy issues related to big data and digital ethics,” Buttarelli said. “I continue to attach more emphasis on the bigger scenario. When you are a visioner looking to the future like that, you have to convince your stakeholders that it is the right time, or that it is even late, to develop old-fashioned data protection into something different.”

IAPP President and CEO J. Trevor Hughes, CIPP, cited Buttarelli’s role as visionary in the world of privacy and data protection as the overwhelming reason why he fits the bill for the Privacy Leadership Award.

“Giovanni has demonstrated leadership not only in the tactical execution of the rollout of things like the EU General Data Protection Regulation, but also in forward-looking things,” Hughes said. “We’re talking about things like the insertion of ethical decision-making into the digital economy and data protection, which was one of the primary themes of the Data Protection Commissioner’s Conference that he hosted last year in Brussels. He has that ability to understand what we need to tackle next.”

Buttarelli served as Deputy EDPS from 2009 to 2014 and before that worked 11 years as secretary-general to the Italian Data Protection Authority. He said his prior work helped shape the leadership qualities he possesses, which include vision, diplomacy and an overall curiosity.

While each of those qualities has helped him flourish as a leader, one characteristic is particularly important to Buttarelli, in the current, ever-changing global landscape he works in.

“The latest element of my leadership relates to communication,” Buttarelli said. “From my daily work as EDPS and the work of my junior colleague, we try to help DPAs better explain our principles to society, like speaking to those not in charge of the file. The goal is to allow everybody — from a leader of a newspaper to other experts — to better understand what they should do and have it translate into a proactive approach.”


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