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The Privacy Advisor | The First European Privacy Pathway: Connecting Education with Real-World Experience Related reading: Best practices for data retention in a distributed system

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When you connect the educational opportunities offered by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) with the IAPP and a firm with deep experience in the field, like Promontory, it’s the students—and the privacy profession as a whole—that benefit.

That’s the message from some of those most closely involved with the IAPP’s first EU-based school in the Privacy Pathways Program, which was born of discussions between Prof. Christopher Millard and IAPP President and CEO Trevor Hughes, CIPP, and Promontory Managing Director Simon McDougall, CIPP/E, CIPM, focused on giving students the chance to experience what he describes as the operational side of the privacy profession.

Millard and his QMUL colleagues, Profs. Anne Flanagan and Ian Walden, who teach privacy and data protection, recognized how increased business awareness and regulatory enforcement have made the privacy profession a true area of growth. While based in the UK, QMUL’s students are almost entirely international and are looking to work on global issues like privacy.

Through Privacy Pathways programs, students receive access to IAPP training and certification and are able to gain experience with partnering companies like Promontory, which provides QMUL students with what QMUL’s Flanagan described as “an incredible opportunity”—the chance to intern in a privacy practice for three- to six months, working with a firm that helps organizations with their privacy strategy, risk management and regulatory compliance.

“As legal practitioners, we seek to balance theory with practice implications and the business imperative,” Flanagan explained. “However, having Promontory’s expert consultants like Simon McDougall and Jas Johal provide the latest ‘real life’ perspective on building privacy and data protection compliance programmes and risk analysis from their work is just very exciting for the students … We value this relationship greatly. We are just now exploring with Simon and Jas how we can provide all our students with a bit more exposure to those important practical client skills.”

When McDougall and Johal lecture in QMUL classes, “we pick a number of our more interesting projects and walk through how they work," McDougall explained.

Johal said they focus on giving students an idea of “what a career in privacy would actually be like.”

IAPP Membership and Customer Relations Director Kimberly MacNeill, CIPP/US, said it’s crucial to have these companies willing to step up and offer internship opportunities for students in the Privacy Pathways program. “Whether it’s an outside consulting firm like Promontory, or a company making a spot available as part of their internal privacy team,” she said, “it’s essential for students to experience privacy in practice before they head out on the job hunt. We’re always looking for more participants from the private sector.”

And what do students who participate think of the program?

“They all wrote to tell me how much they had learned and how grateful they were for the experience,” Flanagan said.

One of those students, Alice Marini, CIPP/E, echoed that enthusiasm: “I do believe that this year has been crucial for my future career.”

Marini attended the Privacy and Information Law module at Queen Mary’s Centre for Commercial Law Studies, attained her CIPP/E credential and worked as an intern at Promontory. She described those experiences as “invaluable opportunities” that “provided me with the essential skills to pursue a successful career in the information economy.”

And that’s exactly what she’s doing now as a visiting scholar at the Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology and Society, where her work includes the European A4Cloud project and a privacy and surveillance research project.

The QMUL program was outstanding due to the quality of the lecturers and “its industry-oriented perspective,” she said.

“Indeed, the focus was on the actual privacy concerns regarding the industry,” Marini said, describing how the issues “were considered from a global point of view, with a specific and intense focus on the European legal framework as well as on its future developments.”

During the summer, Promontory interns put those studies into practice, whether researching the proposed EU data protection regulation and cross-jurisdictional laws on international data transfers; investigating products and services, or working on proposals and presentations. Basically, doing “very much what our analysts do on a daily basis,” Johal said.

“It was a terrific experience that allowed me to match my fresh academic knowledge with practical and professional expertise,” Marini said. “What I liked the most of this internship was the friendly and cooperative attitude of the team; I was indeed encouraged to ask questions as well as to use my personal creativity to solve problems.”

From their perspective, McDougall and Johal said discussing privacy with students and working with interns is great for the profession.

“I find it very refreshing. The questions we get and the discussions we have are smart and are thought-provoking,” McDougall said.

Johal agreed, adding, “It opens my mind up.”

If your firm would like to get involved in the internship portion of the Privacy Pathways program, please contact the IAPP's MacNeill directly.

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