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The Privacy Advisor | Internships in a Box: How To Deliver Your Company’s First Privacy Internship Program Related reading: FTC commissioners: Need for federal privacy law ‘has never been greater’




For those of you familiar with the IAPP, it’s a well-known fact that the organization has grown in leaps and bounds over the last 15 years. For those of you who are newer to the profession, it may interest you to know that the IAPP started in 2000, and, in just 15 years, has grown to a professional organization of just under 25,000 members to date. And that’s, of course, because the privacy profession has flourished over the last decade, and there’s more of a need than ever for a place where pros can turn for resources, news and networking, among other advantages.

Alongside the growth of the profession has been the proliferation of colleges and universities with privacy programs. The IAPP keeps a running list of schools offering such opportunities here. But what many privacy pros report having been instrumental to their growth in the field is on-the-job experience. Of course it’s essential to learn best practices for data protection and privacy, but it’s another thing completely to watch it happen in real time.

And that’s where your company comes in. There’s a need for IAPP member companies to get involved with helping students gain that real-life experience. Whether it’s an outside consulting firm or a company making a spot available as part of their internal privacy team, it’s essential for students to experience privacy in practice before they head out on the job hunt. We are always looking to our membership for help in providing these essential opportunities.

In the below article, Jill Bronfman, director of the Privacy and Technology Project at the Institute for Innovation Law, University of California Hastings College of the Law, and former Assistant General Counsel at Verizon, discusses the benefits of an internship program at your company, and the things to keep in mind if considering launching one. -- Kim MacNeill, membership and customer relations director.

How To Deliver Your Company's First Privacy Internship Program

Whether you work for an enterprise-level company or a startup, you might have imagined what it would be like to have an internship program. There are several significant benefits to having interns involved in your operations, not the least of which is a fresh perspective. Interns can also offer up-to-date information and experiences that personnel entrenched in the industry may not be able to access due to time and resources limitations.

Consider inviting an intern to join your staff meetings, your routine calls and your client interactions to see what a student or recent graduate will contribute. Like a sturdy package that just arrived on your doorstep, there are four sides to a successful internship program: Hire, train, program and mentor. Does it sounds like a great idea in theory but you are unsure about how to launch? Here are some of the practical aspects of internship programs:


The best way to create a pipeline for student and/or recent grad interns is via the school career office. Law school and business school career offices will be able to help you find the right student for a privacy law and policy internship. The school career office may be able to offer enhanced services as well, like on-campus interviews, help crafting a job listing or invitations to events on campus where privacy law students are likely to appear for networking opportunities.

Students who have taken a relevant course such as “data privacy law” or “privacy compliance,” who have written on privacy in publications such as the school journal, have IAPP certifications, or who have experience as privacy professionals are especially good candidates for your privacy internship program. Also, consult an employment attorney to discuss compensation options for your internship program tailored to your organization.


Intake interviews should include a carefully crafted survey designed to ascertain the new intern’s degree of experience with privacy and with your company’s product line. Further, the intern may have some knowledge of your company’s industry and practices. Beyond certifications, degrees and software language fluency, you’ll want to find out what unique experiences and understanding the intern may have that will benefit your company over the summer or semester.

This process of learning about the intern need not occur all on day one, and in fact may happen naturally over the course of the internship as new projects arise. Have quick morning meetings to check that the intern or interns have just enough work without overwhelming them.

After a brief introduction to staff and projects on deck, training should consist primarily of delegating small projects and portions of larger projects to the intern to research, revise and complete. Lean heavily on your student’s ability to access the latest online research methodologies, social media savvy or deep knowledge of cutting-edge terminology.

Allow the intern to access company trainings, both live and online, as well as any industry trainings and meetings. Providers may offer student discounts for your intern to attend or may allow the student to attend as an assistant without a separate admission fee if you are presenting or co-hosting the event.


Projects for interns fall into four categories: works in progress, new/discrete projects, liaison positions and the long-awaited back burner agenda items.

  • Works in progress: Assess your draft articles, white papers, playbooks, web sites and manuals. What could use a refresh? Present these outlined or draft documents to the intern, and if you are fortunate enough to have more than one intern, allow them to choose among the projects. Allocate assignments based on the estimated time it will take to be completed and the degree of supervision that the project will require. If a project is large enough, more than one intern may be assigned to it, offering them valuable experience in teamwork as well as offering your organization work quality checks and balances.
  • New and discrete projects: During the course of the internship, executives at your organization may have scheduled presentations and events. Interns are excellent resources to help research, draft and prepare speakers for events.
  • Liaison positions: An intern can step into a liaison role at your institution in a way permanent employees may be reluctant to do due to resource limitations or office policies. Send your intern to events at neighboring, partner or even competing organizations to learn about the industry, as well as present a friendly face for your organization.
  • Back burner agenda items: Every organization has wish list projects that they would tackle if they just had additional time and resources. Internships bring on additional resources at a low cost, allowing the company to scale up to address a few back burner items quickly and efficiently.


After the internship is over, there will be ongoing opportunities to mentor and guide your intern through their career. Writing recommendation letters, offering advice about switching jobs and even conducting interviews allow you and your company’s intern to cross paths multiple times during the following years. Each interaction will remind you of the service you have provided to the educational community and the contribution you have made to the industry.

If you feel inspired by this article, it reminded you that you could really use an intern, or you are just curious about privacy internship programs, please contact Kimberly MacNeill at


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