Microsoft Hires New Privacy Strategist

After three months without an executive in charge of privacy, Microsoft has found a new chief privacy strategist, the company said Monday.

Peter Cullen, currently corporate privacy officer at the Royal Bank of Canada, will join Microsoft on July 14, the Redmond, Washington, software maker said in a statement. Cullen replaces Richard Purcell, who left his job as corporate privacy officer at Microsoft at the end of March.

Reporting to Scott Charney, Microsoft's chief "Trustworthy Computing" strategist, Cullen's job will be to help ensure that privacy protection and best practices are part of Microsoft's products, services, systems and internal processes, the company said.

Cullen was born in Cambridge, England, in 1958 and joined the Royal Bank of Canada in 1976. He is currently based in Toronto. A regular speaker at privacy symposia and known in the privacy world, he sees the move to Microsoft as a "phenomenal opportunity."

"I am really passionate about privacy and how it affects consumers' lives," Cullen said in an interview.

Though familiar with Microsoft and IT, Cullen does not yet have a list of things he wants to start working on once he starts work at the software vendor. "I have two priorities: understand and build relations internally and externally at Microsoft and understand where they are with Trustworthy Computing," he said.

Trustworthy Computing is a Microsoft-wide initiative to focus on security launched by Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates in January last year.

Privacy activists welcomed the news of Cullen's appointment. Recruiting a non-US privacy expert especially was received as good news.

"If Microsoft had hired a privacy officer from one of the US major banks I would have been horrified. Canada is light years ahead of the US in terms of its federal and provincial privacy laws," said Beth Givens, director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse in San Diego.

According to Cullen, regulations for the financial services industry are actually similar in the US and Canada, although the approach is different.

Cullen brings experience with privacy regulation and security, which is what somebody in his position at Microsoft will need, said Deborah Pierce, executive director of Privacy Activism in San Francisco and Bellevue, Washington.

"Security and privacy are related, but different, he seems to bring both," she said.

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