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The Privacy Advisor | Naomi Lefkovitz wins 2020 IAPP Vanguard Award Related reading: NIST Privacy Framework nearing completion

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The International Association of Privacy Professionals named the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Naomi Lefkovitz its 2020 winner of the IAPP Vanguard Award.

Naomi Lefkovitz

"I went into public so I could do good," said Lefkovitz, a senior privacy policy advisor for NIST's Information Technology Lab. "I work with a fantastic team, and I'm just the face of it. Together we are able to produce things like the Privacy Framework, products and guidance with an aim to help organizations do privacy a little better."

The IAPP Vanguard Award, normally awarded at IAPP's Global Privacy Summit, recognizes privacy professionals “who show exceptional leadership, knowledge and creativity in the field of privacy and data protection, whether through spearheading projects or programs that positively impact the profession or through achievements over the course of an entire tenure or career.”

Lefkovitz began her tenure at NIST in 2012 after serving as the director for privacy and civil liberties in the Cybersecurity Directorate of the National Security Council in the Executive Office of the President during the Barack Obama administration. Chief among Lefkovitz's responsibilities was examining potential threats to privacy under Obama's cybersecurity programs.

Lefkovitz's time with NIST has been especially important given the growth privacy has seen in recent years. The work Lefkovitz and her team have done within the lab's privacy engineering program has helped organizations take privacy seriously and operationalize it appropriately.

"One of the things I've learned from working in government and public service is that you have to take the long view," Lefkovitz said. "I came into NIST being hopeful that I could do things that could make an impact. We were working on the Cybersecurity Framework when I arrived, and we were trying to add privacy to it, and it wasn't the easiest. I'm glad we did the conceptual work over the last few years that can now be leveraged at such an opportune time." 

Lefkovitz added the proliferation of privacy legislation and privacy-related news-making incidents all "made the ground more fertile" for her work. That said, there's also been no shortage of trying times as NIST has pursued its goals. Besides the tedious nature of the work she's doing, Lefkovitz notes organizations have at times struggled to adopt NIST's practices and policies.

"Our role is to work collaboratively to help organizations overcome challenges," Lefkovitz said. "Many are interested in addressing privacy, but there are obstacles. You look at things like technologies that aren't standardized or not having uniform processes. When we're able to get organizations through and produce work they can utilize and deploy, it's a real pleasure for me."

While she notes the Privacy Framework was a heavy lift for herself and her team, Lefkovitz said its completion has spawned more work in the way of continuous updates and adjustments based on privacy's ever-changing landscape, and the challenge to keep up in the years to come is something Lefkovitz looks forward to. 

"Now we know the areas to add more guidance to, but it's also about providing tools, technical solutions and standards," Lefkovitz said. "It's exciting. Right now we're developing in various areas to kind of push the fact that there is a framework, but it's not enough. People need solutions to put the framework into action."

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

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