When data privacy expert Carrie Parikh joined New Jersey state government in July, it killed two birds with one stone. Parikh now serves both as the state’s chief data and privacy officer and the chief operating officer within its Office of Information Technology.
As the former senior counsel for global privacy and data security for the Wyndham Hotel Group, Parikh now oversees the state’s data transparency and privacy efforts, which she said are priorities under first-term Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy.
“[I had asked myself], ‘I wonder if I can play a role in helping the next administration get it better, be more transparent with its citizens, and put out some really cogent and understandable privacy policies that all New Jersey residents can understand,’” Parikh told StateScoop.
Parikh, whose first day in the her dual roles was July 9, pitched the idea of adding a privacy element to New Jersey’s long-standing chief data officer position to state officials, including Murphy, before taking the job. Just two days prior to assuming that role, she was offered the COO position as well — a welcome challenge, in her eyes.
“I have not done anything quite as large as the COO role before,” she said. “I’ve managed teams, but always in an in-house counsel setting, not quite on this scope and level.”
Parikh said her former career as a general commercial litigator in the private sector — a “jane of all trades” dealing with everything from HR to software development — has prepared her well for the managerial side of the job. Most important, though, is informing residents about the state’s data dealings, which she said is an often overlooked task.
Right now, Parikh is working on updating public-facing online privacy notices that will tell citizens how their data is being used, in addition to creating a data breach response plan and staying abreast of global privacy standards.
“Security is the vaulting, or the Fort Knoxing, of the data. We build up all these incredible walls, the only people allowed in and out have been vetted, credentialed and have the right access,” Parikh said. “Privacy is all of the policies that surround that — whether we should your data in that vault in the first place, what we’re doing with it, who we’re sharing it with outside of that vault, and most importantly to most privacy professionals but to me as a tax-paying resident as well, is what is the government telling me about why they need my data and what they’re doing with my data.”