Last year, the National Cybersecurity Alliance expanded international Data Privacy Day to Data Privacy Week, marking the growing importance of prioritizing data privacy for individuals and organizations. To celebrate this observance and learn more about how Dell Technologies views privacy, we spoke with Sommer Coutu, Dell’s Chief Privacy Officer.
Tell us about your background and what drew you to the chief privacy officer role.
Sommer Coutu: I joined Dell over ten years ago and always appreciated the way we embrace ethics and compliance as core tenets of our business. After all, the Ethisphere Institute named Dell one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies 10 times. I’ve carried these values throughout my various legal roles, most recently in supporting our sales teams where I guided them on conducting business compliantly and with integrity. I instill the principles of ethics and compliance across teams not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it builds trust and is foundational for how we do business.
As Dell’s business and the world evolved, I saw how these values are also cornerstones to privacy. In my previous legal role supporting the sales team, I gained extensive insight into the importance of privacy to our customers. They expect the companies they work with will honor and respect their privacy and will incorporate it into all the ways they do business. I was excited about the opportunity to lead our privacy team to evolve with our customers’ expectations and ensure Dell infuses privacy into the fabric of how we conduct ourselves. Given the scope of what that entails, this role offers me the opportunity to work collaboratively across our global organization to get this done.
What does privacy mean to you?
Sommer Coutu: When I think about privacy, three words come to mind: transparency, choice and control. Every individual wants to feel they can trust the companies they do business with to protect their personal data. Trust starts with being transparent about our privacy practices and what we do with personal information. It’s also about giving individuals control over their information so they feel informed, empowered and able to make choices about how their personal data is used. We strive to weave these principles and embed privacy into every Dell operation, product and service.
Privacy is complex. How do you decide where to prioritize?
Sommer Coutu: Global privacy laws and personal data laws are constantly evolving, and we can expect they will only continue to strengthen individuals’ privacy rights. I believe managing privacy is about continuous commitment to its evolution. We must not just react to these laws but be forward-thinking about how we evolve privacy in our organization. For example, in 2021 we launched the Dell Technologies Privacy Center as a one-stop shop for more information about our approach to privacy and a self-service Privacy Dashboard for individuals to manage their marketing preferences. This past year, we expanded the Privacy Center to nearly 150 countries so more individuals and organizations can learn about our privacy practices and have direct access to control the personal information Dell holds.
I’m looking forward to expanding upon the progress we’ve made and keeping transparency, choice and control at the forefront of our privacy philosophy and strategy. To continue this momentum and set my priorities, I ask myself:
- Are we meeting our customers’ expectations?
- Can we expand on what we have?
- How do we improve on what we’ve already started?
- Should we be taking this further?
Ultimately, I aim to ensure our team members are thinking about privacy by default and design every day in service to our customers.
What is your view on the connection between security and privacy?
Sommer Coutu: A company’s best privacy intentions are meaningless without the ability to secure personal information. To do that, security and privacy teams must partner closely. That’s why President and Chief Security Officer John Scimone and I work together, as do our teams, to ensure we have the right policies, processes and practices in place to meet our privacy commitments.
Why is recognizing Data Privacy Week important?
Sommer Coutu: Since Data Privacy Week expanded last year to a week-long observance, I’m thrilled to see this important topic continuing to gain momentum. It’s critical we take this time to bring more awareness to the protection of personal information. However, to get privacy right, we need to be thinking about it not just this week, but every day. At Dell, that means keeping transparency, choice and control at the forefront of our privacy philosophy.