FPF at 10: A Conversation with FPF Fellows

|

Fellows are a crucial part of the Future of Privacy Forum’s work; they conduct research, organize events, give presentations, and write reports and best practices. As the inaugural Elise Berkower Memorial Fellow, Michelle Bae has focused on publishing the comprehensive guide on GDPR and CCPA, analyzing federal and state privacy bills and their impact, and launching the Privacy Book Club which now has more than 750 members. As the 2018-2019 Georgetown Policy Fellow, Jeremy Greenberg has worked on AI governance and best practices, provided analysis of federal and state privacy bills, and organized the annual Privacy Papers for Policymakers event, among other projects. Tyler Park has focused on student privacy issues during his time as the Education Privacy Fellow. He was recently promoted to Policy Counsel.

This series previously featured interviews with fellows Carson Martinez and Chanda Marlowe.

Together, FPF fellows bring diverse experiences and skill sets to the job and do substantive work that makes a real difference in the privacy field. Michelle, Jeremy, and Tyler recently offered reflections on their FPF fellowships and thoughts about their future careers.


 

What drew you to a career in privacy, and FPF specifically?

JG: I knew I wanted to focus on privacy when I took a Criminal Procedure class in law school, which covered the Fourth Amendment, unreasonable search and seizure, and other issues that deal directly with privacy. The following summer, I interned for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) doing work on telecom, privacy, and tech issues. I really enjoyed that internship, so I continued to pursue courses related to privacy, tech law, and policy. My externships in DC during law school made me even more interested in privacy, so it was a no-brainer for me to apply for a fellowship at FPF, where I knew I would be doing top-of-mind privacy work.

TP: I always knew I wanted to work in tech policy in DC. I was full-time at the FCC before joining FPF. I learned about FPF through friends, and the more I learned, the more impressed I was. Not only does FPF have a well-earned reputation for being centrist, moderate, and thoughtful in its approach to privacy issues; it is also known for launching young professionals’ careers. Jules (Polonetsky, FPF CEO) and John (Verdi, Vice President of Policy) have long been committed to supporting FPF fellows in their career goals, whether those goals involve staying at FPF past their fellowship—as in my case—or moving on to other opportunities. As Jeremy said, it was an easy decision.

MB: After graduating from college as a law major in South Korea, I worked in-house at Citigroup for four years and loved the opportunity it gave me to find practical solutions to complex legal problems. I learned about privacy during law school from a lawyer who specialized in privacy practice, and I found this field fascinating as it is a constantly evolving area of law where new, exciting challenges emerge every day. While working as a privacy intern, I also met Carolina Alonso, the previous Georgetown Fellow, who told me about FPF’s unique role in bringing together academics, industry, and policymakers around these issues.

How has your FPF experience enabled you to meet your career goals?

MB: Analyzing the practical implications of the many privacy bills being debated at the state and federal level was very helpful. I helped Jules run a call for banking leaders where FPF brought together the CPOs of the top banks. Organizing and attending meetings like that has been an invaluable experience in understanding the implications and challenges the companies are facing with GDPR and CCPA. It’s rare that a recent law school graduate gets to interact one-on-one with leading decision makers in the privacy field, and I was able to do that quite often. I really appreciate that fellows are given many opportunities to work on interesting and substantive projects at FPF.

TP: The practical experience is top-notch. We’re working every day with thought leaders who are active in privacy conversations around the country. FPF allows fellows to work directly with the major players and make a name for ourselves. Jules and John have gone out of their way to introduce us to people in this space who can help us with our careers, and the Policy Counsels have been fantastic about giving me feedback on my work and mentoring. Beyond helping me with my career, I know I’ve made valuable friendships here that I expect to last for a long time.

JG: I agree. It’s great to work at a small organization, because it means that we all do substantive work out of necessity. We have to produce key writing and presentations, moderate public panels, and take ownership over assignments that most folks straight out of law school don’t have the chance to take on. Another thing that’s great about working at FPF is that our nonpartisan, pragmatic orientation has given me greater appreciation for the many stakeholders and perspectives in the privacy landscape. Finally, the friendly, collaborative culture at FPF is something I will look for at organizations I work with in the future.

What debates and trends in the world of privacy do you envision working on over the course of your career?

TP: Working on education privacy has made me realize the extent to which concerns in that area are mirrored everywhere else. It’s the basic question, “How much personal information am I comfortable sharing as part of my use of technology?” And that’s not just a question for individuals to answer; it’s a question that communities, governments, and international bodies will have to answer as well. We’ll be wrangling with that question for a long time, since individuals, communities, and countries have differing privacy expectations, sensitivities, and needs.

JG: I’ve been focusing on AI governance best practices lately. I think we are entering a tipping point in AI where it’s ubiquitous in our everyday lives. What does AI mean for jobs in the future? How can we manage bias? Those will be key questions, and I’m grateful for having had the chance to work on this issue with such intelligent people while the technology has become more integrated into our lives.

MB: On-the-ground implementation of laws like GDPR, CCPA, and key state privacy bills is still very much up in the air. I expect practical implementation and monitoring will be a huge issue going forward. For example, FPF recently submitted comments to the Office of the California Attorney General regarding the implementation of the CCPA, and I hope to learn more about CCPA from the California AG’s rule-making process. The follow-through is just as important as the legislative process itself and requires a continuous focus.

TP: That’s a great point. We’re in Washington at a fascinating time in privacy. Student privacy laws have been under consideration for the past five years or so, but it’s only in the past year that broader consumer privacy laws have begun to impact the United States. As exciting as it is to be thinking about privacy frameworks at the beginning of the process, we know we will have to adjust our approach as technologies, political realities, and legal protections continue to change in the future.