o minimize it. The CPO, on the other hand,
wants to make sure that interaction is transparent, clear, and fair and
that consumers have choices,” Polonetsky says. The overriding reason for
separating the two positions, however, is a practical one. “Companies
may have technologists who understand the underlying infrastructure, lawyers
who know the law, and marketing and communications people who can talk
to the public, but rarely is there somebody positioned to have a broad
sense of how those issues interact,” Polonetsky says.
The position of CPO has its own unique set of challenges: maintaining
employee awareness of legal and moral obligations, gaining consensus among
partners, staying abreast of new technologies and the law, and communicating
with the public and the press.
Above all, however, the CPO must be an advocate for the consumer within
the company. “A consumer who is surprised, irritated, or annoyed is not
going to be a consumer for long,” says Polonetsky.
The prospect of losing customers is the ultimate motivator behind the
CPO trend. By establishing the position of corporate CPO, companies can
gain consumer confidence, establish a competitive edge, and develop a
strong voice in the ongoing public debate about privacy.
Eva Marer is a freelance
business and technology journalist based in New York City.