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I volunteered at the IAPP and all I got was...

January marked the end of my term as a volunteer co-chair of the Philippines KnowledgeNet chapter of the International Association of Privacy Professionals.

It was an eventful two-year term even though the COVID-19 pandemic raced across the globe a mere three months after I started my stint. We were able to organize two in-person events: a forum on the proposed amendments to the Data Privacy Act (a blockbuster attended by more than a hundred privacy professionals) and a small group discussion of the privacy risks resulting from the health status monitoring that governments were rolling out at the time. We did not anticipate that on March 15, the country would be going on lockdown. After that, all KNet activities moved online.

The total number of events we organized escape me at the moment but I think we were able to hold at least two events per year. I think that was a good number, indicative of how much the Philippines KNet became revitalized. We were also quite lucky that, apart from the officials of the National Privacy Commission, international privacy experts didn’t hesitate to accept our invitations. In the course of two years, we were able to host discussions on consent, employee surveillance and contact tracing, and children’s privacy online and other privacy concerns amidst the pandemic. We also hosted two forums to mark the International Data Privacy Day celebrations for 2020 and 2021.

Volunteering for the IAPP

Each year, IAPP members receive an email calling for volunteers to various positions in the IAPP KnowledgeNet chapters around the world. When you submit your application to volunteer, you are asked to answer a set of questions on your privacy experience and what you intend to accomplish when appointed. As far as I know, this is the only basis for evaluation. I was not asked follow-up questions, neither was I asked to submit to an interview.

The volunteers appointed as KNet co-chairs and Young Privacy Professional (YPP) are usually informed of their appointment toward the end of the year and their term starts January of the next year. There are four KNet co-chairs appointed to two-year terms, with two co-chairs appointed each year. Meanwhile, the YPP is appointed to serve a one-year term.

Thoughts on my KNet experience

Based on my experience, the IAPP gives co-chairs a free hand on the type of activities they want to plan for their local KNet chapter. There are IAPP guidelines but since we didn’t really plan on doing anything controversial, there really wasn’t much need to consult them except for the initial read at the start of my term. Of course, since this is an organization of and for privacy professionals, the minimum expectations of complying with privacy principles was a given: if I remember correctly, we never recorded any of our events and, except for the need to secure access to the web conference platform, we did not collect any personal information from participants.

What I noticed though was that the IAPP became a bit stricter about getting sponsors for KNet activities. Since KNet chapters do not get any funding, we were constrained to get sponsors for our events—for meeting venue and for the web conference platform. We could not do more for our sponsors apart from thanking them during the event. The use of sponsor logos and other promotional materials would require prior approval of the IAPP. Since that entailed more paperwork and additional requirements, we usually advised our sponsors early on about our limitations. It was a good thing that a lot of people were willing to step up and help us out nonetheless.

(Above: Photos from my first and last events as co-chair. Hat tip to Jon Bello for the pictures.)

All in all, I would say that my two years in the IAPP KNet was a rewarding experience. Despite the stress during each virtual event (I was always “volunteered” by the others as emcee and moderator of the Q&A), I learned a lot and made friends in the privacy profession. As emcee, it also meant that I got to prioritize MY questions.

Would I recommend other privacy professionals to volunteer for their local KNet chapter? My answer would be an unqualified yes. How fruitful your term is would depend on you though, and other members of the team. If you really buckle down to work, it’s a worthwhile use of your time and effort.

Oh, and you get a free IAPP e-book at the end of your term too.


I am Cecilia Soria, a Privacy Attorney. This blog is where I share news and insights as I continue to learn more about privacy.


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