Campus privacy officer position created to protect information security

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UC Berkeley is looking for applicants for the position of campus privacy officer, a position created in line with an initiative to tighten university cybersecurity and information autonomy.

The position, posted Tuesday as a job listing, will require balancing the confidentiality of data about individuals held by the campus — termed information privacy — and the ability of individuals to act without observation, or autonomy privacy, according to Paul Rivers, the interim chief information security officer at UC Berkeley.

Tightening security on information privacy can infringe on autonomy privacy, Rivers said. He expects to collaborate frequently with the new privacy officer to help balance security and privacy concerns.

“I do absolutely see this position as critical to the mission of the campus,” he said in an email. “The proper balance between privacy and competing interests (such as information security) must be explicitly and transparently addressed in order to safeguard academic freedom.”

The UC Privacy and Information Security Initiative is a series of recommended improvements to information security across UC campuses. One of the initiative’s first stages is the designation of a specialized privacy official — in UC Berkeley’s case, the creation of a new position.

The privacy officer, according to Barbara VanCleave Smith, campus deputy chief ethics, risk and compliance officer, will also serve as a consultant on a wide variety of privacy-related topics on campus, which can range from data management to rules regarding video camera usage.

“The person that we hire is our conscience when it comes to privacy issues,” she said. “The position’s wide open; it’s not a narrow thing — it’s any issue in the area of privacy.”

Smith said the campus administration feels the position is so important that they decided to house it in the Office of Ethics, Risk, and Compliance Services within the chancellor’s office. In an era when digital privacy can be so easily compromised, she said, the addition of a person dedicated to protecting it will be positive for UC Berkeley.

In April, the emergence of the “Heartbleed bug” — a security bug that may have compromised campus systems — prompted campus administrators to advise students to change their academic and personal passwords.

“The privacy of our students, of our employees, of the research being done here — privacy is just important everywhere,” Smith said. “And this is our attempt to try and keep it under control.”

Larry Rohrbough, executive director of the Team for Research in Ubiquitous Secure Technology Center at UC Berkeley, said the addition of a dedicated privacy specialist was welcome news. Privacy officers, he said, have become increasingly more common in a wide variety of industries and organizations, including other universities.

“They’ve all become quite visible, especially in this digital age, where there’s quite a bit of information that’s collected, stored and disseminated, and where laws and policies governing how that data can be protected and should be used are rapidly evolving,” he said.

Contact G. Haley Massara at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @BylineGraph.