The best privacy advisers in 2007

If your company loses a laptop, rolls out a new Web site or globalizes its HR information system, who are you going to call to square away the privacy requirements?

That's the question I recently posed to over 400 corporate privacy leaders in North America and Europe for the second year running. This question has become increasingly important in 2007 as security-breach notification requirements have started to spread from the U.S. to Canada, Europe and Australia, and as Europe has stepped up enforcement of its existing privacy laws.

So what did this year's poll, albeit unscientific, reveal?

Still about the law

Although no major privacy legislation was passed worldwide in 2007, organizations are still apparently absorbing the aftershocks of past laws, court decisions and new enforcement. When asked to name the top firms with privacy practices, there were two votes for a law firm for every one vote for a consultancy.

This says to me that many organizations still have immature privacy programs — they're struggling to reach and maintain privacy compliance and are only beginning to determine how to take privacy to the next level of building trust with customers.

Which law firm earned top honors? For the second year in a row, New York-based Hunton & Williams received the most votes — 157 out of 393 cast in the law-firm category. Hunton's Lisa Sotto also topped the voting for privacy guru, with 66 votes out of 421 recorded. Several survey takers said Sotto was their choice for U.S.-based issues, while Chris Kuner, in Hunton's Brussels office, was their go-to person for EU privacy.

“Kirk Nahra of Wiley Rein provides practical, sound legal advice on privacy matters,” said one respondent of the No. 2 vote-getter for top privacy pro. Another exuded, “Alisa Bergman is the smartest and most talented attorney I have run across in my 20-year career,” referring to Venable's privacy star.

Several survey takers listed corporate CPOs as their choice for top privacy expert. “My 'No. 1' would go to a practitioner,” said one, “such as Janet Chapman [Charles Schwab] for U.S. financial issues, Stan Crosley [Eli Lilly] for pharma and David Hoffman [Intel] for technology.”

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