Ex-Wash. State Privacy Leader Debuts Public-, Private-Sector Consultancy

Alex Alben, Washington state's first-ever chief privacy officer, has exited the government to head his own consultant firm in Southern California, where he hopes to advise public- and private-sector clients.

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Washington state’s original privacy leader has returned to Southern California, where he worked more than 20 years ago, to reactivate a consultancy that will likely do business with the public sector.

Alex Alben’s last day as the first-ever chief privacy officer for the state of Washington was May 1, he confirmed to Techwire; and he has since reactivated his company, Alben Consulting, through which he “offers strategic consulting services and guidance on privacy compliance and security issues," according to LinkedIn. Government Technology magazine* first reported Alben’s departure. In a conversation, the Washington state CPO of more than four years discussed potential next steps in a varied career that has taken him from the late 1980s motion picture industry to more recent, foundational work in privacy and security. Among the takeaways:

• His exit from Washington state was amicable. Alben described his tenure as “a really great experience,” in part because he was able to stand up the state privacy office from scratch. “There was the ability to create that whole department, and so, I really appreciate the opportunity to have done that,” he said. Per GT and the state, Washington’s new CPO is longtime Washington Technology Solutions tech leader Will Saunders, whose previous areas of focus include IT and open data.

• Alben demurred on the topic of clients. Asked whether he’ll be consulting with some of Southern California’s larger governments — including the county and city of Los Angeles — the head of Alben Consulting said confirmation would be “premature,” but indicated he is looking at public- and private-sector clients. Some issues are the same across the private and public sectors, he said, but can require different solutions.

• The Los Angeles area, however, could be an interesting operations center. Alben was director of business affairs at Orion Pictures from October 1989 to December 1991, and an associate general counsel for Warner Brothers from January 1992 to September 1993. The biggest change, he told Techwire, is “how the tech companies have influenced Hollywood,” and how content distribution now relies on technologies that didn’t exist 25 years ago. It’s an interesting balance between content creation and distribution, “and it’s just super interesting for me to navigate between these two cultures,” Alben said.

• His timing could be excellent. In the wake of the passage of last year’s California Consumer Privacy Act, and the May 2018 implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation in Europe, Alben said “both consumers and companies are worried about how to comply with new laws and regulations.”

“No one has a crystal ball, and I don’t pretend to have a crystal ball, but given my background both in the public and private sector as CPO, I have some outline of what the future could look like,” said Alben, who was also CPO at RealNetworks Inc.

*Government Technology magazine is part of e.Republic, Techwire's parent company.

Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Techwire.