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How to Build a Career in Data Privacy

Chetan Gupta

How to Build a Career in Data Privacy Studio

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Privacy law is a relatively new field. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation—arguably the law that accelerated privacy work—only went into effect in 2018. Given the relative novelty of the field, most seasoned privacy lawyers did not start in this field, allowing for a diverse set of perspectives.

Working in the Office of Data Protection at Twitter, part of the Privacy and Data Protection team, we are charged with protecting the privacy and security of our consumers—a role in which I am proud. Our work includes conducting privacy reviews for new products or services, such as leveraging machine learning to analyze platform activity and engaging with privacy regulators globally. 

For law students and young practitioners interested in cybersecurity or privacy law, consider the following tips.

An Interest in Technology Is Helpful

The most successful people I see in this space are those who engage deeply with technology and enjoy getting into the weeds of how tech stacks, algorithms, and APIs (Application Programming Interface) work. It is worth your time to take an online course in any of these domains to supplement your legal education (there are several excellent ones available). Consider, for example, the Udemy course for Python and Django or the edX course titled “ComputerScience for Lawyers.”

An Interest in Other Disciplines Can Lead You to Privacy, Too

I was always interested in constitutional law and human rights. Most of the courses I took during law school were in this space, including courses on comparative human rights and socio-economic rights. In this work, I realized that privacy is emerging as the definitive human right of our time in many ways.

Be Prepared for Privacy Engineering and Legal Skills to Intersect

To counsel clients successfully, practitioners will need at least a basic grasp of k-anonymity, differential privacy, federated machine learning, etc. Again, there are several excellent online resources available for this.

Antitrust and Privacy Laws Are Also Going to Intersect

It is worth developing a working knowledge of the history of antitrust enforcement. Books like Tim Wu’s The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age are a good start.

A Good Practitioner Respects Users’ Privacy without Diminishing Functionality

Privacy compliance is often perceived as a “blocker” function to building or shipping products. A good practitioner should strive to work within privacy laws to build a better product experience that respects users without sacrificing functionality.

Mentors Are Invaluable

While studying for my Masters at University of California, Berkeley, I was fortunate to have Professor Chris Hoofnagle as a mentor, a leading authority in privacy law and technology. My mentorship experiences led me to specialize in privacy at both Baker McKenzie and Twitter.

Watch the author’s conversation with David Wheeler about building a career in data privacy.