Microsoft's man who monitors privacy
Keeping things private in an online world can be a bit a challenge, but it's one that former Paeroa man Brendon Lynch is rising to at Microsoft's international headquarters in Redmond, Washington.
Lynch, 43, who grew up in the Thames Valley and did a business management degree at Waikato University, works as chief privacy officer at Microsoft, which he joined in 2004.
"Defining privacy is interesting," Lynch, who recently popped home for a beach holiday at Waihi with his family, said. "There are a number of definitions of privacy and there is also a personal component – privacy means different things to different people.
"For some it is the notion of being left alone – not having intrusions on your time or personal space. For others it's not having your actions observed. There is also the concept of no harm coming from the use of information about you. One popular definition in the information age relates to the ability to control the information about you that is collected and used by others," Lynch said. "When we internalise it within Microsoft and relate it to the products and services we provide our customers, we think of privacy as the appropriate collection, use and protection of personal information and the ability for people to be in control."
Lynch was instrumental in ensuring that Microsoft's Windows Phone's location services is turned off by default.
"The first time an application wants to use it the user has to opt in. Location tracking is very sensitive."
Microsoft's error reporting system, built into its software, is confidential and anonymous, and its latest internet browser, Internet Explorer 9, includes "InPrivate" mode. It enables users to safely log in to social networking sites and email on another person's computer without the computer recording any of the sites they have visited.
Lynch said there was a need to teach young people using Facebook and other social networking websites how to be good digital citizens, which included how much information they shared on their pages.
"You teach your kids to look both ways before they cross the road," he said.
He praised the likes of NetSafe.org.nz, an independent, non-profit organisation that promotes safe use of the internet, for publishing guidelines online.
After obtaining his business management degree, Lynch worked in the New Zealand manufacturing sector, helping Waikato and Auckland businesses implement quality assurance programmes to achieve certification with international quality standards.
"That helped prepare me for my current role," he said. "There are a lot of similarities between quality management and privacy management. Both require gaining the support of top management, establishing and implementing policies, making it a part of the organisation's culture and continually adapting to a changing environment. The skills and experience I gained in New Zealand were invaluable for success in my subsequent roles."
As Microsoft's chief privacy officer, Lynch is responsible for setting policies and standards around the appropriate collection and use of personal information and ensuring staff are trained to comply.
"I also help our product teams produce privacy-enhancing technologies for our customers and I engage with a wide range of external stakeholders around the world, including government officials, industry counterparts and customers to advance privacy protections."
Issues currently before him are the use of information in targeting online advertising, location-based services in mobile applications and the move to cloud, or online, computing with large amounts of personal information being hosted in data centres around the world.
Before joining Microsoft Lynch spent two years leading the privacy and risk solutions business at Watchfire Corporation, a privately held security and compliance testing software company based in Waltham, Massachusetts. He joined them from PriceWaterhouseCoopers, for whom he had worked in Europe and North America, consulting on privacy and risk management.