"You have zero privacy anyway -- get over it," Sun Microsystems co-founder Scott McNealy famously quipped back in 1999. But 15 years later, it might be more accurate to say: "You have zero privacy anyway -- so cash in on it."
The never-ending intrusions on personal and corporate privacy by government and industry, not to mention social media companies and app developers, are leading to a small but growing jobs boom for IT professionals and others skilled in protecting privacy.
A new survey by the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) found that Fortune 1000 companies are now spending an average of $2.4 million on their privacy programs, with financial services, consumer products, and retail firms leading the way. A third of the companies responding to the survey plan to increase their privacy program staff, while only 3 percent expect to reduce staffing in that area.
The organization estimates that aggregate spending on privacy by the Fortune 1000 will total $2.4 billion and will result in the creation of about 900 full-time and 2,200 part-time jobs this year. Given the size of the IT workforce, that not a huge number. But it doesn't include the much larger number of jobs that require expertise in privacy, says IAPP CEO Trevor Hughes.
In an era when women are still largely absent from the top ranks of tech business, the survey indicates that 48 percent of privacy leads are female, with more than half of the people carrying the title of chief privacy officer command a salary greater than $200,000.
Salaries of rank-and-file types on privacy teams are less clear, but Hughes estimates they pay a premium of $5,000 to $20,000 a year.
Privacy is a hybrid specialty
Privacy as a specialty is relatively new, and it cuts across several areas and lines of business, including IT, security, legal, and compliance. "Privacy pros need to be bilingual: They have to speak the language of law and of tech," says Hughes. People who speak both languages -- Hughes calls them "translators" -- are particularly valuable and well-placed to succeed, he says.
That last point tracks with a broader trend in tech, the ongoing transformation of ITfrom a service-and-support organization to a line of business responsible for developing moneymaking ideas and applications. Privacy may not yet be a profit center, but understanding how applications, for example, might intrude on personal privacy can save a business from embarrassment, a loss of customers, and expensive lawsuits.
Indeed, privacy can be a selling point. When Apple CEO Tim Cook introduced the iPhone 6, one of the first features he mentioned was the device's built-in encryption (which iPhones have had since 2010, but now is a selling point thanks toEdward Snowden's revelations). Google has also made encryption the default for new smartphones and tablets running Android Lollipop, so it's harder for third parties to gain access to the data on the device.
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