IBM has named Harriet P. Pearson as the company’s first chief privacy officer. She will lead initiatives to strengthen privacy for consumers, and will report to L.R. Ricciardi, senior vice president and general counsel.
Before joining the company in 1993, Pearson practiced law in Washington, DC, and worked as an engineer with Shell Offshore in Louisiana and Texas.
She brings 10 years of public policy, legal and technology experience to the position. In addition to having directed IBM’s involvement in several areas of public policy - including privacy, health care and consumer protection - she chairs the privacy committee of the Information Technology Industry Council and serves on the board of the Internet Education Foundation and on the BBBOnline privacy seal program steering committee. She also is on the executive committee of the CEO-level Privacy Leadership Initiative.
“We know that one of the great conundrums of e-business is that it gives enterprises a powerful new capability to capture and analyze massive amounts of customer information so they can serve individuals more effectively,” said chairman Louis Gerstner, Jr.
“Yet this very capability troubles some people, who see it as a means to disclose or exploit their personal information. These are legitimate concerns, and they must be addressed if the world of e-business is to reach its full potential.”
Continuing, Gerstner said, “At its core, privacy is not a technology issue. It is a policy issue. And the policy framework that’s needed here must involve the information technology industry, the private sector in general and public officials. As our chief privacy officer, Harriet Pearson will represent IBM with all of these important communities and drive our own cross-company initiatives.”
Pearson will unify the many privacy projects and programs under way across IBM - including research and development, marketing, sales, web strategy and technology and policy efforts.
“Harriet has the unique mix of skills and experience a company like IBM must have to balance its corporate needs with those of its consumers,” said Professor Alan Westin, a privacy expert.
Born and reared in New York City, Pearson, 37, holds a law degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, and an engineering degree from Princeton University. She lives in Virginia with her husband and two children.