Privacy on the Ground

From Information Policy

Privacy on the Ground

Driving Corporate Behavior in the United States and Europe

By Kenneth A. Bamberger and Deirdre K. Mulligan

An examination of corporate privacy management in the United States, Germany, Spain, France, and the United Kingdom, identifying international best practices and making policy recommendations.





An examination of corporate privacy management in the United States, Germany, Spain, France, and the United Kingdom, identifying international best practices and making policy recommendations.

Barely a week goes by without a new privacy revelation or scandal. Whether by hackers or spy agencies or social networks, violations of our personal information have shaken entire industries, corroded relations among nations, and bred distrust between democratic governments and their citizens. Polls reflect this concern, and show majorities for more, broader, and stricter regulation—to put more laws “on the books.” But there was scant evidence of how well tighter regulation actually worked “on the ground” in changing corporate (or government) behavior—until now.

This intensive five-nation study goes inside corporations to examine how the people charged with protecting privacy actually do their work, and what kinds of regulation effectively shape their behavior. And the research yields a surprising result. The countries with more ambiguous regulation—Germany and the United States—had the strongest corporate privacy management practices, despite very different cultural and legal environments. The more rule-bound countries—like France and Spain—trended instead toward compliance processes, not embedded privacy practices. At a crucial time, when Big Data and the Internet of Things are snowballing, Privacy on the Ground helpfully searches out the best practices by corporations, provides guidance to policymakers, and offers important lessons for everyone concerned with privacy, now and in the future.


$40.00 X ISBN: 9780262029988 352 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


  • Gathering the insights of privacy leaders across the globe, Bamberger and Mulligan expose the anatomy of modern privacy practice. Their findings confirm many of our intuitions, and also reveal some surprises, about managing privacy inside a company. Here is an essential truth: how we define privacy and how we protect it emerge from the crucible of law, government infrastructure, civil discourse, and professional practice.

    Nicole A. Wong

    former White House Deputy CTO for Internet, Privacy, and Innovation Policy; former Vice President and Deputy Counsel, Google; and former Legal Director for Products, Twitter

  • A welcome contribution to the international debate on more effective privacy and personal data protection in the digital age.

    Peter Hustinx

    European Data Protection Supervisor, 2004–2014

  • Bamberger and Mulligan's meticulously researched book shows that we should not give up on privacy. The book drives home the reality that, although the US and EU systems take divergent approaches to protecting privacy, their aspirational goals are identical—to ensure that individuals have control over their personal information but also to allow businesses to innovate in ways that benefit consumers. As Bamberger and Mulligan make clear, it is time that the United States and the European Union recognize their shared heritage and goals, and work together to rectify the flaws that undermine privacy protection on both sides of the Atlantic. This is truly a must-read for anyone involved in privacy policy today—and tomorrow.

    Jon Leibowitz

    former Chairman, Federal Trade Commission, and Partner, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP

  • Privacy on the Ground is a deep and insightful account of the unwritten law of privacy, crafted from the way that privacy professionals steer internal governance of privacy within companies. The rise of the privacy profession has had as great an impact on privacy today as any law. Privacy on the Ground shows us that law isn't self-executing but depends upon people who must navigate and change the culture and structure of their institutions. This book is the definitive scholarly analysis of the role of privacy professionals in the United States and in Europe.

    Daniel J. Solove

    John Marshall Harlan Research Professor of Law, George Washington University Law School, and President and CEO, TeachPrivacy

  • Privacy continues to confound policymakers around the globe. Our current framework of individual control has struggled to keep up with the privacy challenges presented by technological advances in the global information economy. Many great minds have taken up the task of finding better answers. Yet the issue persists and the gap between the bleeding edge of innovation and the lagging capability of our public policies to manage privacy only widens. Into this debate, Bamberger and Mulligan have provided a remarkably fresh and clear-eyed view of what is actually happening on the ground in privacy management. Organizations, both public and private, have invested in managing the issue of privacy and, in doing so, have built a new profession. Bamberger and Mulligan examine the rise of the privacy profession and find remarkable differences (and similarities) in key jurisdictions. Their extensive interviews with professionals in privacy leadership roles reveal something that public policy debates over privacy desperately need: an understanding of what works, what doesn't, and how organizations are actually responding to regulatory structures. Privacy on the Ground thus becomes a critical contribution to our understanding of privacy in society today. By examining the explosive growth of the privacy field within organizations, Bamberger and Mulligan have given us a new lens through which to view this issue—one with remarkable clarity and focus. Anyone struggling to understand privacy in today's digital world should keep this book within reach.

    J. Trevor Hughes

    CEO and President, International Association of Privacy Professionals