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Privacy Perspectives | Reflecting on the growth of the privacy industry Related reading: IAPP Privacy Tech Vendor Report



In a year clouded by difficult developments for nearly everyone around the world, glimmers of good news still shine down upon us from time to time. Today, a ray of light illuminates the powerful growth of the privacy profession and the burgeoning privacy tech industry that undergirds our complex data protection ecosystem. I was delighted to hear this week that OneTrust has been identified by Inc. as the fastest growing company in the U.S.

No, not the fastest growing privacy-tech business in the U.S. … let me say it again … the fastest growing business in the U.S. Full stop. No doubt this is tremendously good news for Kabir Barday, OneTrust’s CEO, and the folks at OneTrust. Kudos to you all. But this news also speaks to the amazing rise of the privacy profession, en masse.

As the IAPP celebrates and reflects upon its 20th anniversary this year, I’m proud of the fact that OneTrust was first imagined at the IAPP’s Privacy. Security. Risk. Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, just five years ago. That year, Kabir and his team at AirWatch were there to receive the HP-IAPP Innovation Award for their mobility management platform. While attending one session, Kabir heard HP Chief Privacy Officer Scott Taylor, who, at the time, was serving as chairman of the IAPP’s Board of Directors, discuss the challenges of building in-house privacy impact assessment technology.

In that moment, Kabir, with all his entrepreneurial drive, realized technological solutions were needed for solving some of the privacy profession’s gnarliest tasks. That moment spawned a truly meteoric rise: OneTrust is now valued at $2.7 billion!

In 2016, not long after Kabir’s “aha moment,” I started noticing new startups in our space. The IAPP publications team began digging into this area a bit and found a few dozen companies were beginning to focus on technological solutions for the privacy profession. To help map this area for our members, we released our inaugural Privacy Tech Vendor Report in January 2017.

In that first report, we identified 44 privacy tech vendors. But that was just the beginning for the privacy tech marketplace. Fast forward to January 2020, just three years, and you’ll find more than 300 privacy tech vendors in the 2020 Privacy Tech Vendor Report. On top of that, venture capital — to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars — has been flooding the privacy tech marketplace. Just look at some of our coverage in Privacy Tech since the beginning of 2019.

Of course, much of this marketplace has been driven by the massive paradigm shift from the EU General Data Protection Regulation. That was followed — almost out of nowhere — by the California Consumer Privacy Act, and then by a national data protection law for Brazil, and comprehensive legislation in India, among many, many other developments around the world.

The complex requirements these laws place on privacy pros calls for scalable, efficient technology and operational know-how. And clearly the market is responding. It’s been wonderful seeing this massive industry of vendors grow, offering more and more sophisticated products and services to help the day-to-day operations of the privacy and data professional.

Kabir’s amazing journey is among thousands of other sparks ignited by our dynamic community of privacy and data professionals. I think back to our very first certification exam in New Orleans, way back in 2003. In the 17 years since that historic day, nearly 1,600 people get certified per month, bringing a total this year of more than 25,000 certified privacy professionals around the world!

We’ve seen our CIPP exam flourish and, in turn, developed a suite of certifications over the years for the Asia-Pacific region, Canada, Europe and the U.S. These certifications, which have focused on the “what” of privacy — understanding the laws and requirements in the space — led us to roll out two certifications focused on the “how” of privacy. The CIPM helps the privacy pro learn how to manage a privacy department, while our newly revamped CIPT reflects the technological realities of modern business. Initially comprising lawyers and consultants, our membership has spread to a palette of adjacent professionals, which now includes technologists, software engineers, data analysts, architects and scientists, IT professionals, among many others. The CIPT aims to reflect that, and we’re excited to grow with this new cadre of professionals.

It’s been an incredible 20 years here at the IAPP, and it’s thrilling to see companies like OneTrust grow so fast. With the recent “Schrems II” decision, the California ballot initiative to amend the CCPA on the horizon, and growing geopolitical tensions — particularly between the U.S. and China — the privacy profession is only growing more complex … and with that, ever more essential to the modern economy. I’m looking forward to more success stories in the years to come. 

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