Wanted: privacy software engineers, privacy officers, and privacy attorneys. In fact, anything with “privacy” in the title will do.
Data privacy workers have become hot commodities in the business world as legislators and consumers increasingly call for stronger data protection. Companies are increasingly hiring people who are specialized in privacy in one way or another—or are at least emphasizing “privacy” in the job ads they post online.
“There’s no question,” said Joel Wuesthoff, managing director of Robert Half Legal Consulting Solutions. “It is definitely a very hot space.”
Over the past four years, the number of openings with the terms “data privacy” or “data protection” in their titles on employment site Indeed have increased 75%, according to Indeed. The biggest rise in demand during that period was for privacy analysts, for which openings more than doubled.
Consumers and legislators have become more aware of privacy following a string of recent scandals—like Cambridge Analytica harvesting Facebook user data for political influence and Google Plus leaving user data vulnerable to hundreds of third-party apps. But even so, the rising demand for privacy-focused workers—executives, middle managers, lawyers, and technical experts—is mostly being driven by new regulation.
The push kicked off with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, which took effect in May. Companies are also preparing for the California Consumer Protection Act, which will come into play in 2020, and any federal regulation that passes in the future.
Data privacy regulation doesn’t just affect technology companies, it touches all businesses that collect data about their customers or users. Banks, pharmaceutical makers, health care providers, and technology firms are all calling Robert Half’s consulting arm about data privacy, Wuesthoff said.
Job openings reflect that rise in focus. In 2018, postings for data privacy and protection officers rose nearly 80% from the previous year after declining every year between 2014 and 2017. Meanwhile, openings for privacy consultants and privacy attorneys have more than doubled over the four-year span.
Facebook currently has about 40 job openings with “privacy” in the title. Those listings include software developers who would work on features for letting users delete or anonymize their data, research jobs that explore how data is used, and policy managers who provide guidance to companies about privacy matters.
Meanwhile, Amazon has about 20 privacy-focused job openings, Google has about 10, and Twitter lists about five.
No salary information is available that shows how much workers who focus privacy earn. In any case, it’s probably impossible to compile considering the variety of jobs that fall under the privacy rubric.
In some cases, companies are turning to consulting firms to handle their privacy-related work for them.
“I probably get almost a request a day from companies in the U.S. and overseas for a variety of needs that are being driven from a privacy perspective,” Wuesthoff said. “Two years ago, we didn’t have that level of traffic.”
Whether it’s hiring full-time staffers or using consultants, experts say the greater demand for data professionals will only continue to grow.
“There’s an increasing awareness, and it’s occurring among business leadership,” Aileen Alexander, senior client partner at Korn Ferry, an executive recruiting and management consulting firm, said about privacy.
The nature of data privacy conversations are changing, too. Previously, companies often relied on their legal counsel to handle data privacy matters, Alexander said. Now, the companies are broadening responsibility for data privacy across the organization. Companies are asking themselves, “What are we doing from a business perspective?” she said.
Corporate boards are paying closer attention to data privacy because of the financial and reputational risk involved. For many, it’s among the top three concerns—up there with data security and challenges related to emerging technologies, Wuesthoff said.
In the future, companies will send more user data across borders, integrate new technologies, and be subject to more regulation that affects their marketing strategies. Privacy considerations will play a role in all of them.
“This is not going to get more simple; it’s going to get more complex,” said Wuesthoff.