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With the complexity surrounding Europe’s GDPR, California’s CCPA, and more to come, privacy laws are affecting any company today that handles data. And in a world where a majority of business was done entirely online for the past year, more companies than ever have been forced to deal with the swath of local, national, and global data privacy laws that come their way. Historically, companies have tried to improvise their privacy programs when they are already well into production of a product, using spreadsheets, questionnaires and static compliance templates that work in a pinch, but often leave holes in a company’s privacy program. The team at TerraTrue, the modern privacy platform built for scale, believe there is an easier way to keep up a company’s pace of innovation while ensuring that they ship their products in a compliant way. To learn how modern companies are keeping up with the crazy patchwork of privacy laws, I spoke with Chris Handman, co-founder of TerraTrue about how TerraTrue’s privacy platform takes care of regulatory risk without slowing innovation and what he and his co-founder learned after building Snap’s first major privacy program.
Gary Drenik: You have an interesting background being one of the first key hires at Snapchat (now Snap). Can you tell me how your experience there informed your new company, TerraTrue?
Chris Handman: I went from being an appellate partner at one of the world’s largest law firms to being General Counsel and employee 55 at one of the world’s fastest moving companies. It was a magnificently dizzying transition, which required me to quickly harmonize regulatory rigor with speed of execution. One week into the job, the FTC announced that it was imposing a 20-year consent decree on Snap to remedy some earlier privacy missteps. Among other things, the decree subjected Snap to periodic audits where it would need to demonstrate that every new feature, iteration, and tweak to its product was reviewed for privacy compliance before getting shipped. So, my first and most important mandate was to build a robust privacy program that wouldn’t wilt under strict regulatory audits, while keeping pace with Snap’s restless pace of innovation.
The biggest thing that stood out then as much as it does now, is that this type of user privacy and compliance work was being done manually, with word docs and spreadsheets. There was nothing remotely customized and the idea of even just streamlining the process—let alone trying to integrate it with product development teams—seemed not to have occurred to anyone. So, we sat down and created the world’s first modern privacy program, juggling compliance issues, privacy parameters, and a 20-year consent decree from the FTC. The result was a glimpse of what could be, when privacy was interwoven with product development and compliance stopped being an afterthought box to check.
Drenik: It seems like a lot of companies have launched recently in this space, how are you different from everyone else out there?
Handman: As with any sector, there are often a number of imperfect options available to companies, from legacy software outfits to early stage startups. But the biggest roadblock for most of them in our arena is always the same—this is just a really hard problem to solve. Legacy solutions are clunky, innovation-stifling and unscalable, only focusing on data that companies have already collected. The issue becomes untenable really quickly without a purpose-built, comprehensive solution. Unlike other companies, TerraTrue instead focuses on all of the initial workflows and collaboration before a company ever deploys a product.
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Drenik: How are companies trying to deal with issues of product compliance and privacy laws today?
Handman: There is a lot of working it out on the fly, which is unsustainable for fast growing companies. According to a recent Prosper Insights and Analytics survey, roughly 2 out of 3 adults are actively concerned about their online privacy. Many companies are doing the best they can to make sure they don’t have a lapse, hoping to find themselves in full compliance and that nothing falls through the cracks. But deep down they know that hope isn’t a plan, and they’re looking for a solution that won’t slow them down. We believe TerraTrue is that solution, and we’re eager to show those teams how much we can take off their plate.
Drenik: What happens if new regulations or laws are enacted? Do companies need to stay up to date on those themselves?
Handman: One of the biggest things that makes TerraTrue stand out from the crowd is our capacity for real-time compliance. You have better things to do than sit and learn what laws kick in and when, but we don’t. Any laws, rules, or regulations germane to your product are accounted for automatically. Users are becoming more and more cautious when it comes to online security—according to a recent Prosper Insights and Analytics survey, nearly half of all adults are asking mobile apps not to track them. Online privacy is a totally different animal than even two years ago, let alone ten, because it’s constantly evolving. Trying to keep up with the increasingly Balkanized world of privacy is hard enough as you’re building new features. It’s even harder to quickly find out which existing features may need to be remediated based on the latest regulatory utterance. But with TerraTrue, you’ll know exactly which features you need to address and why.
Drenik: “The GDPR privacy restrictions, state regulations such as California Prop 24 and the death of 3rd party cookies have disrupted marketers targeting efforts. Firms, such as my company, Prosper Insights and Analytics, have long advocated for privacy compliant targeting and worked to create models to enable it. How is TerraTrue helping to enable activation of accurate privacy compliant models for their users?
Handman: TerraTrue helps our customers hew to privacy-complaint models by embedding those models right into the platform. That’s particularly important because, as you say, ever-changing privacy laws are dictating ever-changing product approaches to stay compliant. With all that regulatory indeterminacy, understanding how to adapt going forward — and finding out which existing products may need to be tweaked — is impossibly difficult when your privacy program is a manual, unstructured jumble. But with TerraTrue, a few clicks ensure nothing falls through the cracks. So, wherever privacy regulations go in the future — and whatever their merits — we’re here to help you get privacy right.
Drenik: This all sounds great for privacy departments, but can TerraTrue be used by other teams and functions that need to review products before they ship?
Handman: TerraTrue’s solution is as effective as it is because it fits within a company’s existing workflows. The point isn’t simply to keep privacy compliance from being an afterthought ‘last stop’ before rollout, but rather to integrate it into the development life cycle. It’s a lot better to know—whatever department you’re in—that the problem is solved far upstream of those finishing touches so you can ship your product on time. And since our interface is your interface, anyone involved in this process can review products at every step. We’ve done everything we can to make TerraTrue the most comprehensive solution possible.
Drenik: Thanks, Chris, for taking the time to explain the current state of product compliance and privacy laws. I’m looking forward to seeing how you and the team at TerraTrue are going to help many companies keep their data safe and compliant.