Fast Talk: The Protector

Harriet Pearson

Chief Privacy Officer, IBM
Armonk, New York

Harriet Pearson, an attorney and former engineer, became the first major-company chief privacy officer in 2000.

“More and more employees and their spouses are going to be putting their medical information online. Companies have to decide, Do I collect info? How do I protect it well? When can I share it? Our latest challenge is Web companies that provide genetic information if you send in a simple cheek swab. What if that information gets inadvertently exposed? It doesn’t matter that it hasn’t happened yet. I secured IBM’s commitment not to use genetic information in employment or health-insurance-coverage decisions, and now we’re using our influence to get tech and life-sciences companies that we work with to do the same.”