“The focus group can be compared to a self-learning model”

When it comes to data protection and privacy, regulation is never black and white. “In fact – and fortunately – it is always a matter of interpretation. That context makes it very important to be able to exchange thoughts with people who are also qualified in the domain. This ultimately generates a delineated vision on one of the theme’s hot topics,” Jan Leonard comments. “You can therefore compare the Data Protection and Privacy focus group to a self-learning model.”

Best practices

Jan has been actively engaged in the group since its beginnings. “The primary objective was, and still is, to reflect on legislation and compliance together. We are not directly aiming at generating clear outputs, which makes our focus group a bit of an outlier compared to others that are trying to be more hands-on,” explains Jan. “In other words, we don’t set out to draft and distribute clear guidelines, because that would interfere with the interpretation space, which remains crucial. We mainly share best practices. And we always look for the common denominators.”

For Jan, the added value of this focus group, which he has chaired for three years, is undeniable. “The shared commitment ensures an increase in quality. Being able, as a DPO, to explain that you have formed your views in consultation with other profiles with the same function, makes you feel stronger. The fact that membership is almost never questioned proves that the other members feel the same way. It is an implicit recognition of value.”

Reversing waning focus

Moreover, the increase in quality is more important than ever in the current context. “Unlike the general cyber security landscape, which has very clearly received a strong boost in recent years, in the area of privacy we notice that the focus is waning a bit. In my view, this is due to the overly weak mandatory framework. Although the legislation is sufficiently strict, there is too little focus on enforcement, and the fines are not sufficiently high. As a result, many companies have little incentive to comply,” Jan explains.

By facilitating reflections on a new balance between regulation and enforcement, the focus group hopes to reverse this trend. “This is why we will continue to organise our sessions in the coming years. We try to hold these in person as much as possible, because the topics are always confidential and therefore difficult to match with online meetings. Of course, this does not mean that we will not also focus on knowledge sharing via e.g. introductory webinars. I am passionate about the topic, and will continue my participation in this focus group, no matter what,” Jan concludes.

My job as DPO at Orange fits perfectly with the focus group. In practice, most people in our group have my job title. This homogeneity (which is much greater than in other focus groups) makes every exchange between us very substantive, and therefore meaningful.

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