Meet Washington's First Chief Privacy Officer

Washington state created a new position to manage the world of growing threats against personal data privacy.

by Colin Wood / April 30, 2015
Washington state's new chief privacy officer Alex Alben, left, with former state Gov. Gary Locke in 2004. Wikipedia

Washington state is working to keep private things private. As such, Alex Alben will serve as the state’s first chief privacy officer, under the office of the CIO, Gov. Jay Inslee announced on April 30 — a move recommended by CIO Michael Cockrill at an event held in early March. The new position will examine privacy policies across state agencies and develop forward-thinking methods of protecting data privacy.

“With new technologies that increasingly impact consumer privacy, protection of privacy must be a core value for our state government,” Inslee said in a statement. “We want to be a leader in this field, to improve the security protecting the data the state collects while also building upon our strong tradition of transparency and open government.”

And in a recent interview with Government Technology, Seattle Chief Technology Officer Michael Mattmiller noted that privacy efforts are a key focus in Seattle and in the state. Alben concurred in a written statement.

“As technology evolves in the world of big data and cloud computing, privacy policy will only become more complex,” Alben said. “We need to balance the rights of individuals, First Amendment concerns, our state’s public disclosure requirements and the needs of law enforcement. Washington state’s desire to become a leader in best practices and consumer protection is highly encouraging, and I look forward to working with state agencies and leaders in this new role.” 

Alben joins the state after working on economic development and strategic initiatives at the University of Washington and as a consultant at Alben Strategic partners. Alben has been a guest columnist with the Seattle Times for the past decade and also moderates events, such as the Seattle Smart Gun Symposium held in January.