Impact of Privacy Skills Gaps


New research from ISACA explores the latest trends in enterprise privacy—from privacy workforce and privacy by design to privacy challenges and the future of privacy—in its new Privacy in Practice 2022 survey report, by OneTrust.

The report, which examines responses from the global ISACA State of Privacy survey conducted in the third quarter of 2021, highlights the persistent understaffing that is impacting enterprise privacy teams. Respondents indicate that both legal/compliance (46 percent of respondents) and technical privacy roles (55 percent of respondents) at enterprises are understaffed, and the issue has only worsened since last year. Forty-one percent also report that the biggest challenge in forming a privacy program is a lack of competent resources.

Jo Stewart-Rattray, Information Security Advisory Group, ISACA said as Australia seeks to amend and update its national privacy law following a discussion paper released in October 2021 seeking submissions, it is imperative that understaffing issues and skills gaps are addressed.

“Privacy professionals are critical in ensuring enterprises adhere to privacy laws and regulations and protect the personal data of customers and staff, particularly challenging in this era which has seen the explosion of e-commerce,” said Stewart-Rattray. “There is no doubt the spotlight will be on this important sector as Australian privacy legislation is assessed to more accurately reflect the realities of the digital economy.”

In line with this, global survey respondents largely expect that privacy professionals will only become more in-demand, with 63 percent anticipating increased demand for legal/compliance roles and 72 percent expecting more demand for technical privacy roles.

In seeking professionals to fill these roles, respondents indicate they are looking for three key things: compliance/legal experience (62 percent), prior hands-on experience in a privacy role (56 percent) and technical experience (48 percent). A university degree is not necessarily a prerequisite—29 percent of respondents say that it is not an important factor when evaluating a candidate. However, respondents indicate that candidates do not always have the skills required for these roles, citing these common skills gaps:

  1. Experience with different technologies and/or applications (64 percent)
  2. Understanding the laws and regulations to which an enterprise is subject (50 percent)
  3. Experience with frameworks and/or controls (50 percent)
  4. Lack of technical experience (46 percent)

“People are an essential component of any privacy program, both the privacy professionals driving the work forward and employees across the enterprise who follow good data privacy practices,” says Safia Kazi, ISACA Privacy Professional Practice Advisor. “Enterprises need to sufficiently invest in their privacy programs and teams, not only to retain privacy staff and upskill talent to fill open roles, but to also prioritise privacy training efforts to ensure all employees are supporting privacy initiatives.”

Despite issues with staffing and skills gaps, 41 percent of respondents report they are very confident or completely confident in the ability of their privacy team to ensure data privacy and achieve compliance with new privacy laws and regulations. One in 10 respondents’ enterprises have experienced a material privacy breach in the last 12 months, consistent with last year’s results.

When exploring the main types of privacy failures that enterprises experience, survey respondents point to these as the most common:

  1. Not building privacy by design in applications or services (63 percent)
  2. Lack of training (59 percent)
  3. Bad or non-existent detection of personal information (47 percent)

When it comes to privacy training at enterprises, most (71 percent) respondents perceive privacy training to have a positive impact. However, the survey finds that many may approach it as a “check the box” exercise, with nearly 70 percent indicating that they evaluate the success of a privacy training program by looking at the number of employees who complete the training rather than measuring the efficacy of the training.

To further protect themselves, many enterprises implement additional privacy controls in addition to what they are legally required to do, including encryption (76 percent), identity and access management (74 percent) and data security (71 percent).

“Privacy professionals are vital in driving transparency and accountability across their organisations, and that has never been more important, as more consumers, employees and investors dictate the success of organisations that they do, or don’t, trust,” notes Alex Bermudez, OneTrust Privacy Manager. “The role of the privacy professional continues to evolve, with many now taking their organisations on a journey from compliance to building trust as a competitive advantage: helping to make companies stand out based on the values they hold and the commitments they fulfil. Continuing to monitor the changes in resources, board-level sponsorship, and the positive trajectory of privacy at-large form an important part of a privacy professional’s value, and impact on an organisation”

Click here to download the report.