After nearly three years in the position, Karen Neuman will leave her post as chief privacy officer at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security next month.
With the end of the Obama administration in sight, Neuman told The Privacy Advisor that she is leaving DHS to join a law firm and return to private law practice. “I will be leaving [the privacy office] in a very good place,” she said. “We’ve accomplished a great deal together, and the staff is well positioned to continue its really remarkable legacy, not only within DHS but across the federal privacy enterprise as a whole.”
While Neuman is not yet announcing which firm she is joining, she said she’ll continue to “focus on privacy and data security law, and the new products and services that the technology sector is enabling across a whole host of industries and sectors.”
Further, she said she’s really proud of what the DHS privacy team has accomplished during her tenure. “I think we’ve been extremely forward thinking and innovative in devising ways to integrate privacy protections into the department’s programs and systems. DHS, not unlike other large organizations, is using technology to assist with carrying out its various missions, and it is doing so at a time when the threat environment is very severe,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of success, even in the current environment, in getting people to pay attention to the role that privacy plays in maintaining the public’s trust and the success of DHS programs.”
Building on the work of predecessors like Mary Ellen Callahan, now a partner at Jenner & Block and a winner of the IAPP’s Vanguard Award, and Nuala O’Connor, now CEO and president of the Center for Democracy & Technology, Neuman said she has built and developed a highly skilled privacy team. “I’ve focused on building a staff that really understands how to flip the notion of technology as invasive to a notion of technology as privacy protective. That’s the overall achievement that I’m most proud of: devising really forward-thinking solutions for innovative privacy protections that avoid having to retrofit programs after the fact.”
“We’ve built on the already very strong foundation and the strong privacy culture in the department,” she said. “We’ve furthered that and strengthened that into some of the farthest reaches of the department.”
Prior to her role at DHS, Neuman was a founding partner and head of the privacy practice at St. Ledger-Roty, Neuman and Olson, LLP, a Washington-based law firm. In between Callahan and Neuman’s tenures, current Deputy CPO at DHS, Jonathan Cantor, CIPP/G, CIPP/US, served as acting chief privacy officer.
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