An introduction to the job of a Data Protection Officer

The Data Protection Officer (DPO) ensures, in an independent manner, that an organization applies the laws protecting individuals’ personal data. DPOs must demonstrate awareness of changes to the threat landscape and fully comprehend how emerging technologies will alter these threats.

The introduction of the EU’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) has caused increased demand for DPOs. In fact, if the core activities of a company (those essential to achieving its goals) consist of processing sensitive personal data on a large scale or a form of data processing which is particularly far reaching for the rights of the data subjects, this company has to appoint a DPOPublic bodies on the other hand always have to appoint a DPO,

Data Protection Officers use a set of laws, regulations and best practice to manage the collection and use of personal data about individuals. Due to the sensitive nature of personal data and the public’s expectation of privacy, various requirements are imposed, above and beyond the base requirements of information security.

In the US acceptable level of privacy is defined in terms of compliance to the functional and non-functional requirements set out through a privacy policy, while in the EU, the General Data Protection Regulation sets the requirements that need to be fulfilled. In the rest of the world, the requirements change depending on local implementations of privacy and data protection laws.

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Through our analysis, we gathered information about Data Protection Officers around the globe, in this article we try to present some of the most relevant insights we drew.

The role of a DPO is truly multidisciplinary, requiring a varied skill set necessary for a smooth fulfillment of their tasks, from Privacy laws and Information security to Risk assessment and IT infrastructure

Here below we try to explore some of the most common skills for these profiles.

  • Privacy laws: The laws that deal with the regulating, storing, and using personally identifiable information of individuals, which can be collected by governments, public or private organizations, or other individuals. As a Data Protection Officer, one of your main tasks is to make sure all rules and regulations concerning privacy and personal data protection are fully understood and followed. This is why a comprehensive understanding of these privacy laws is mandatory for every DPO. 

  • Risk assessment: Consists of identifying and analyzing potential negative events and making judgments on the tolerability of this event considering influencing factors. When dealing with individuals' personal data, DPOs often have to do an analysis of what can go wrong, how likely it is to happen, what the potential consequences are, and how tolerable the identified risk is, which makes Risk assessment a very useful skill to have.
  • Information security: It is the practice of preventing unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification, inspection, recording or destruction of information. This information or data may take any electronic or physical form. Data Protection Officers have to offer high levels of security to the sensitive personal data they work with and should be knowledgeable in this field.

  • Cloud Computing: Making computer system resources, especially storage and computing power, available on demand without direct active management by the user. These data centers are widely used by businesses over the Internet, and DPOs need to be familiar with their working to manage the way information (especially individuals' personal data) is stored and processed. 

  • IT infrastructure: Defined broadly as a set of information technology components that are the foundation of an IT service; typically physical components (computer and networking hardware and facilities), but also various software and network components. Although DPOs don't need to be experts of this subject, it is very important they have a basic understanding of how their IT infrastructure is built and whether it is compliant with the applicable privacy laws.

  • Data Warehousing: A technique for collecting and managing data from varied sources to provide meaningful insights. It is a blend of technologies and components which allows the strategic use of data by transforming it into information and making it available to users in a timely manner to make a difference. As a DPO, it's very important to have a good idea about data warehousing to ensure that information and especially individuals' personal data is circulating is safe and secure.

After talking about the top skills required to succeed as a Data Protection Officers, it's time to see what companies have the most paid DPO paths. Through our analysis, we created the chart bellow ranking the top 10 companies for these profiles.

Now it's time to take a look at the early beginnings of Data Protection Officers and see how they kicked off their careers. Through our analysis, we revealed some of their most common first job titles, as presented below.

  

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