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United States Privacy Digest | Notes from the IAPP Editorial Director, Dec. 18, 2020 Related reading: Privacy in 2020: A look back with Omer Tene and Caitlin Fennessy

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Greetings from Kittery, Maine!

As we make our way to 2021 and reflect on a tumultuous 2020, a year filled with unforeseen challenges, it's notable how big a role privacy continued to play across the board. No, the pandemic did not make privacy less relevant but rather more significant. Contact tracing and tracers, ubiquitous videoconferencing for remote work and schooling, and a shift in how doctors and patients communicated all gave rise to a doubling down of privacy and data protection needs. 

But pandemic aside, 2020 saw a massive shift in transborder data flows in the wake of the Court of Justice of the European Union's "Schrems II" decision. The EU-U.S. Privacy Shield agreement was invalidated, and additional measures for alternative transfer mechanisms are now required. Privacy pros will continue to negotiate a complex and uncertain global network of data flows in 2021. 

Here in the U.S., California residents approved a ballot measure that strengthens the state's privacy law, including the establishment of the country's first dedicated privacy enforcement agency. And, of course, 2020 featured an unusual and contentious presidential election. The change in administrations will have an effect on global relationships — perhaps on trans-Atlantic data flows? — and will change the makeup of the Federal Trade Commission and its enforcement efforts. 

These are some of the subjects we covered this week in the latest episode of The Privacy Advisor Podcast. I chatted with IAPP Vice President and Chief Knowledge Officer Omer Tene and Research Director Caitlin Fennessy about privacy in 2020, as well as the topics above, including the emergence of data protection legislation in Brazil, Canada, China, India and more. 

The other big news worth pointing out this week is our release of the IAPP-FTI Consulting "Privacy Governance Report 2020." This is a huge undertaking and provides valuable data and insight into the privacy profession. As many of us head into a brief holiday respite from the daily grind, I urge you to take a look at this expansive document. 

Usually, privacy news winds down this time of year, but, as we know, 2020 isn't your average year, and the news developments haven't quit. In the last week, the FTC announced a Section 6(b) inquiry into nine tech platforms. Plus, there's plenty of antitrust movement against several Big Tech giants, and the Department of Health and Human Services is looking to update the HIPAA Privacy Rule. We're also seeing a potentially disastrous and wide-ranging hack into SolarWinds and several government agencies. I think we're going to see a steady march of bad news in the coming days and weeks on this one. 

This all goes to say that 2021 is going to be another busy year. But you can know we're on the case and will continue to bring the news and information you need to help you navigate this dynamic field. In the meantime, wishing you and your family health, safety, some relaxation and a very happy new year. 

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