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The Privacy Advisor | Volunteer Spotlight: A conversation with Timothy Banks Related reading: AI, machine learning, data privacy, blockchain top of mind for platforms

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Meet Timothy Banks, CIPP/C, CIPM, a partner at Dentons Canada and the national lead for privacy and data security practice there. He specializes in all sorts of areas of privacy and data security, including issues like Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation and Do-Not-Call Regulation. Here, The Privacy Advisor catches up with Banks to learn a little more about his life as a privacy pro. 

The Privacy Advisor: How’s being a lawyer?
Banks: The thing about being a litigator is you need to absolutely know your stuff. So, if you try to guess on an issue or you try to go further than your facts are going to allow, you’re going to run into trouble. The great thing about litigating is you’re always thinking, ‘Can you prove it?’ And that’s served me really well in the privacy field, because a lot of times, especially when you’re dealing with compliance issues, people will say, ‘Yep, I feel like we’re compliant; we do it this way,’ and my response will be, ‘Yes, but can you marshal the evidence to prove it? If litigation happened, would you be able to demonstrate that you were accountable? Demonstrate that you were compliant and not just show policies?’

Timothy Banks

Timothy Banks

The Privacy Advisor: Who comes to you for help?
Banks: The biggest category of clients are international internet-based platforms; so, organizations that are providing software-as-a-service or who are providing e-commerce platforms or new fintech or health-tech apps, and these are really interesting companies with very interesting and different worldviews of how an industry should be transformed, so I learn a lot from them in terms of what you need to bring to the table to really be imaginative and re-envision an industry or a service.

The Privacy Advisor: What do you do for them?
Banks: Everything from privacy impact assessments to privacy-compliance documents; assisting them to set up privacy offices and compliance frameworks, prepare them for SOC audits and then also deal with disasters that might come to them, whether it be a privacy breach or a violation of someone’s rights … dealing with them to try to mitigate the damage both to the company and individual and brand. Most of my clients are international and headquartered outside of Canada.

The Privacy Advisor: How do you stay up on the issues so you can offer your clients solid advice?
Banks: The IAPP of course! I subscribe to all the Dashboards and the Advisor and the Tracker, and I find those to be an essential component of keeping up to date, as well as the Canada Symposium and the global event in Washington. I find all those to be essential. They really are, and I’m not just saying that, the core of how I keep up to date. I do a lot of reading and writing, as well, and that forces me to really focus. The writing part forces me to focus on the details of what’s going on in other jurisdictions. Then, I also have the luxury of working in an organization that’s global; I have colleagues dealing with these issues around the world, so I’m able to reach out to them and learn from their experiences, as well.

I once was speaking to an in-house privacy lawyer for a major financial institution, and she said, and I agree, that the biggest difference between what she was doing and what I do is just the amount of time you do have to spend keeping up to date on developments, in particular, the different ways in which regulators start interpreting or reinterpreting or evolving the same law. In privacy law, there’s such a normative component to it. Privacy regulators may interpret the same clause differently over time in a flexible way, in response to new challenges that come about. For anyone, whether a privacy officer or specialist or lawyer in this field, you have to spend so much time keeping up with that and analyzing it. It’s critical to your effectiveness and your job.

The Privacy Advisor: That sounds tiring. What do you do to de-stress?
Banks: So the way I blow off steam is that I run. I try to run five or six times a week, and I recently came out of retirement on the marathon circuit and did a half-marathon in Toronto. And I’m hopefully going to do the Army Run in Ottawa in the fall. 

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