Meet Adobe’s New Chief Privacy Officer, Alisa Bergman

We’re thrilled to officially introduce Alisa Bergman as our new vice president and chief privacy officer (CPO). Alisa will spearhead Adobe’s global approach to privacy, trust and safety issues – from our solutions and the data we maintain, to helping influence public policy and engaging with customers and partners. Alisa and her team are part of the Legal department and report to Mike Dillon, executive vice president and general counsel for Adobe.

Alisa brings with her nearly two decades of experience on privacy, data, marketing and cyber issues and joins Adobe from Warner Bros., where she was senior vice president and global chief privacy officer.  Before that, she was a partner in several law firms with leading privacy and security practices in Washington, DC and Brussels, helping clients develop creative solutions to emerging digital and data issues, along with efforts to shape the global privacy and data security laws.

We sat down with Alisa to get to know her better and ask a few questions about the ever-important area of data privacy. Here are a few highlights from our conversation: 

Why did you decide to join Adobe?

Every day Adobe is developing innovative and market-leading solutions for the current and future challenges of a digital and data-driven society.  Our customers are looking to us for thought leadership and guidance on privacy issues as their businesses evolve and undergo digital transformation. The chance to help drive industry solutions, shape emerging laws, and literally design privacy into the products and services used by so many of the world’s leading brands is why I decided to get into privacy in the first place and why Adobe was such a clear choice for me to continue on my privacy journey. On top of that, the prospect of working with Adobe’s terrific “trust and safety program” — which is committed to free expression, transparency, due process and safety — really spoke to me.  I feel privileged to have the opportunity to lead our Privacy, Trust and Safety team. 

Lastly, and very importantly, a key reason I joined Adobe was because of the great company culture.  I have found Adobe to be a place truly like no other.

How did you get involved in privacy issues and why have you made a career out of it?

Despite coming from a family of musicians and being a music major in college, I decided to pursue another strong interest of mine.  I have always been fascinated by the law, government, and politics, such as volunteering on campaigns and getting involved in local government.  I knew I wanted to do something in the policy space and made it my mission to go to Washington, DC and work for my senator.  I was somewhat (or perhaps very) naïve and thought I could change the world once there.  Needless to say, that’s not exactly how things played out, but I was at least in the right place to help shape some policy and laws.  In law school, the cyberspace law class I took made it abundantly clear to me that the then-emerging area of data and privacy would be my chance to make a difference by helping shape the laws in this area just as the commercial Internet was starting to develop. I sought out the only law firm at the time that had a dedicated privacy practice, headed by a man who was known as the “granddaddy” of privacy. In the two decades since, the privacy community has grown and evolved exponentially. I feel lucky every day that I get to think about these novel and interesting issues and work with such smart and passionate people.

How should companies be thinking about the business value of privacy today and in the future? 

I have always believed that good privacy is good business. The important question to ask is not what a company can do when it comes to data and privacy, but what a company should do. In my experience, true business value is realized when business and technological innovation is combined with legal and data ethics and consumer choice. Companies who proactively address privacy will see benefits in several key ways, such as increasing goodwill by valuing privacy; offering a competitive advantage by integrating privacy and security features into products and services; and designing products and services to protect consumer information.  Privacy issues are ripped from the headlines every day and consumers are increasingly focused on them. Consumers now expect privacy to be part of the value proposition when it comes to a company’s use of, and government access to, information. Companies that can differentiate themselves on privacy will go a long way toward creating a great customer experience.

What are some of the privacy trends we are going to be talking about over the next three to five years? 

One area to watch is the impact of differing privacy laws on the free flow of data, essentially making privacy a trade or competitive issue.  In some countries, there are little or no restrictions on data coming in or going out.  In others, data can come in, but there are a lot more hoops to jump through for the data to go out.  This sets up interesting trade issues as the data-driven economy grows exponentially.  Companies and countries may use this difference to compete for business. 

Another trend, and one that is particularly interesting to Adobe, is privacy associated with machine learning and artificial intelligence. With the move to these systems, we are having to make decisions about how we code for privacy.  Are inferences or intelligent guesses about data treated the same as those based on traditional data processing? What additional protections are there or should there be for biometric and other sensitive data in play? How do we balance potential conflicts between privacy, ethics and other competing interests? The field of privacy is rapidly changing and I am excited to work at a company that is at the leading edge of technological innovation in this space.

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