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Keeping to ourselves

Anthony Paonita, editor-in-chief, InsideCounsel

Welcome, readers, to 2016. We hope you had a nice holiday season. Do you feel rested? Good. You’re going to need all that stored-up energy you can muster for the upcoming year.

First, inside counsel will have the usual menu of issues: cost containment, managing outside counsel, labor and employment matters, regulatory changes (thank you, Paris delegates, for adding a note of uncertainty. But life would be dull otherwise, wouldn't it?).

Then there are other more pressing issues, the salesman's “incentive” in Nairobi, the engineers who find a way to cheat on emissions tests, that sort of thing.

But there's one thing that keeps muscling out the other issues, taking control of newspaper headlines when Donald Trump takes a day off: data privacy. Yes, it was lurking in the background for years. But hackers weren't as good, putting personal data wasn't as pervasive a practice as it is now, and the “Internet of things” was merely a vision of future-thinking software engineers.

It took what was the biggest data breach of all to bring the issue to the forefront. Call Edward Snowden a hacker, a criminal, a whistleblower, a hero, or a combination of all three, but he and groups like Wikileaks focused the collective consciousness on data security and spilled secrets like no others.

So what's that mean to general counsel and their legal department colleagues? Well, somehow in-house lawyers got tasked with yet learning another skill, that of how their companies and organizations gather and store data. They’ve had to come up to speed on network servers, where the clouds actually reside, and where the vulnerabilities exist. With data breaches happening at regular intervals, knowing all this comes in handy.

Plus, there are different levels of privacy. With clashing protection levels across the globe, today's in-house counsel needs to keep dozens of privacy regulations in mind.

You can read lofty discussions of data privacy and breaches elsewhere. In this issue, we try to bring you some real, actionable information on how to approach data privacy and how your legal department and company can protect the privacy of your clients, vendors and customers.

On a housekeeping level, we welcome Stephanie Forshee to the masthead. She comes to us from Seattle and the Puget Business Journal, where she reported on local business doings and legal affairs. And Lisa Shuchman from our affiliate Corporate Counsel contributed a feature on intellectual property that's worth a read. With the proliferation of inversions, like that of Pfizer and Allergan, U.S. lawmakers are scrambling to carve out tax breaks for IP and research, in the hopes of keeping U.S. knowhow—and jobs—in the U.S.

It's going to be an interesting year.

Contributing Author

Anthony Paonita

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