Chief Privacy Officers need strong leadership, strategic planning, and communication skills

Elena Testa explores the qualities that a Chief Privacy Officer needs to be successful in their job, in addition to having an impeccable knowledge of data protection law.

Many commentators have discussed the role of the Chief Privacy Officer (CPO), focusing on what is the best background for someone to take on the role of CPO in a large organisation. I won’t be alone in remembering the debate around “Does a CPO need to have a legal background, or is it preferable for a CPO to possess a technical background that is supplemented with ad hoc data protection training and certifications?” Personally, I know of both situations and, while having a (maybe biased) preference for the first, I have to say that both can work well.

Nowadays, CPOs in large organisations no longer sit alone in the furthest office down the corridor, or struggle, as maybe was the case in the past, to make themselves known to the rest of the management team. On the contrary, they are fully connected and integrated with key functions in the company, and partner with other managers every day when needed. This integration gives them the necessary support from relevant experts, such as, for example, legal and employment counsels, and information security specialists, who can help the CPO in their decision-making process. Moreover, with the maturity that the privacy function has reached in the last decade, in a large organisation, the CPO is surrounded by a team of senior level privacy professionals, each bringing a unique combination of privacy experience, technical skills and knowledge of a particular sector. Cooperating with valuable internal team members, and supportive external partners, is a key element to ensuring the success of a CPO in heading the privacy function.

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