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Greetings from London!

What a whirlwind six months it has been since I had the honor of being asked to represent the IAPP as the U.K. country leader. We have had yet more high-profile data breaches and, of course, the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica news and, just this week, the sight of Mark Zuckerberg on stage seemingly promoting the EU General Data Protection Regulation for the U.S.! Indeed, U.K. Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham referred on stage this week at the Data Privacy Practitioners’ Conference to the quote: “May you live in interesting times.” I couldn’t agree with her more that there has never been a more interesting time to be in the profession.

I had the pleasure of attending the conference with your normal host in this space, Paul Jordan, and we were conscious that, yet again, the event sold out well in advance. The number of people entering the privacy profession continues to grow at an incredible pace. Unfortunately (for me), I have been around the profession long enough to remember when it was a struggle to get enough people to fill a small venue, let alone sell out large ones.

It has probably never been more important for companies, recruiters and, of course, all of our individual members to be able to distinguish between actual knowledge and pragmatic advice compared to the “fake news/advice” that we are increasingly seeing published around the GDPR and the requirements asked of companies in protecting our personal data. This was also something that Elizabeth Denham alluded to on stage, along with her “Myth-busting blogs,” which are well worth a read if you haven’t seen them already.

It was also interesting to hear that the Information Commissioner's Office currently has about 200 case workers and a 60-strong “enforcement team,” which you may have seen on some recent high-profile news footage, wearing some FBI-style jackets as they entered a business on a “dawn-raid.” Apparently, there are plans to add another 150 people to the ICO team, bringing it to more than 400 and with a budget of 34 million GBP per annum. That is an organization with the scale and resources to have real teeth. However, I was personally encouraged to hear the ICO state that she intends to continue the pragmatic approach that it has become known for in the privacy community. She reinforced the “carrot rather than stick” approach, while reminding us that there are many enforcement actions that the ICO can take, reserving hefty fines for those that persistently, deliberately or negligently flout the law.

The information commissioner also mentioned a Technology Fellowship that will be focused on the future of artificial intelligence and privacy. This brings me nicely on to our very own IAPP event in London next week, the Data Protection Intensive. The DPI is sold out, yet again, and we are privileged to have an impressive lineup of speakers. I am particularly delighted to see several sessions looking forward to the next set of challenges that we are going to face in maintaining our personal privacy and keeping our companies and clients compliant. Technologies such as AI, blockchain (and other distributed ledger technologies), quantum computing and the internet of things, in my opinion, going to bring challenges to our privacy, identity and “digital freedom” far in excess of anything we have experienced to date through data analytics, malware and identity theft.

I encourage any of you attending next week to seek out the subject that fascinates you and challenge yourselves to not only learn more, but think about how that knowledge will make you more relevant, and valuable, as we enter what are not only “interesting” times, but also challenging, exciting and rewarding times.

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