In the Beginning...An Early History of the Privacy Profession

25 Pages Posted: 21 Mar 2014

See all articles by Andrew Clearwater

Andrew Clearwater

University of Maine School of Law

J. Hughes

International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP)

Date Written: 2013


Privacy is a concept that has existed in various forms and degrees, for much of human history. However, the origin of information privacy as a compliance, risk management, and operational concern has been much more recent. This new field, and the professionals who work within it — the privacy profession — did not exist broadly until the past decade. From essentially no active professionals in the 1970s and 1980s, the privacy profession has grown to at least 13,000 people working on managing information privacy within their organizations. As the information economy continues to grow — pushed by the breath-taking speed of technological development, cloud computing, big data, and emerging uses for exponentially increasing stores of data — it is reasonable to expect that the privacy profession will grow. The exact trajectory of the privacy profession is difficult to predict. Management of privacy is, today, a well-established and important function, and it is obvious that the professionals who work in this field will grow in number and prominence in the coming years.

Without knowing where we’ve come from, we can’t know where we are going and so it is appropriate for us to document the nascent years of the privacy profession. We expect that, at some point in the future, scholars will seek to understand how the field of privacy management emerged, who served as a catalyst for the growth of the field, and what the important milestones for the privacy profession were as the turbulence of the early days of the information economy played out. While this history is most certainly global — the privacy profession has its earliest roots in Germany in the 1970s — we have chosen to investigate this change where we understand it best and where the profession has appeared to grow the most, the United States. We have also limited our focus to the role of the privacy professional and privacy lawyer. There are certainly public policy leaders and advocates in the privacy field who deserve well-documented histories. Through these lenses, we offer a history of privacy becoming a profession.

Keywords: privacy, history, profession

Suggested Citation

Clearwater, Andrew and Hughes, J., In the Beginning...An Early History of the Privacy Profession (2013). Ohio State Law Journal, Vol. 74, p. 897, 2013. Available at SSRN:

Andrew Clearwater (Contact Author)

University of Maine School of Law ( email )

246 Deering Avenue
Portland, ME 04102
United States


J. Hughes

International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) ( email )

Pease International Tradeport
75 Rochester Ave., Suite 4
Portsmouth, NH 03801
United States

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