The Emergence of a New Profession: Data Protection Officers in Israeli Organizations

Cyber systems collect, process and store personal data, hence raising the crucial issues of informational privacy. Law, social norms, market norms and technological developments impose obligations on organizations that must carefully manage the processing of personal data. The importance of cyber-related data protection can be captured in terms of human rights, particularly privacy and human dignity, as well as social values, but it is also strongly tied to other concerns with cyberspace, such as threats to individual and collective security. The complexity of legal and extra-legal requirements and the technological proficiency that is required to address privacy issues, induced a growing cadre of privacy experts on a global scale, designated as Data Protection Officers (“DPO”), or Chief Privacy Officers (“CPO”). These professionals take part in a complex corporate environment, and can be viewed as transmitters of ideas from the broad regulatory environment to the daily and strategic operations of organizations.

The proposed research seeks to examine the emergence of this new cyber profession in Israel, a small, developed economy that is active in the global market. While the substantive law on data protection is important for understanding the context of the legal regime that informs what organizations must do, the study’s emphasis is on the process installed by the laws and the agents who are appointed to oversee it. Hence, beyond the study of privacy law, the study utilizes organizational and neo-institutional theory.

The study seeks to describe the rise of the profession, the organizations that use it and people occupying the positions within them and in consulting positions outside organizations; the legal, economic and social forces shaping the scope of the new profession; the tasks assigned or contracted by organizations to the new professionals; and the challenges facing experts who must instigate a privacy culture and norms within organizations. These questions will be addressed by mapping the participants in the new profession, followed by a series of semi-structured interviews with Israeli professionals, regulators and other players in the emerging field, such as lawyers and accountants.

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