Ip ELLE.com’s monthly series of working hours, we ask people in positions of power to tell us about their first job, their worst job, and everything in between. This month we talked to AppleSelf-proclaimed Chief Privacy Officer Jane Horvath “Forrest Gump on privacy,”, which started her career at AOL as one of the youngest lawyers on the team before joining the Department of Justice, Google, then eventually Apple. As a company manager‘s Privacy, Policy and Regulatory Team. Horvath is responsible for all things legal, advises on products and defends strict privacy rights in high-profile cases like the 2015 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, where the FBI took out a suspectlocked iPhone. “I am very lucky” she says. “I was at these important moments in private life; every day i wake up and i never know what i will face. But I always feel like I have the best of both worlds: I get to enjoy my civil liberties and work somewhere that truly treats privacy as a fundamental human right.» In fact, data protection is even the subject of a newly released Apple ad. Below, a privacy expert shares best practices, career advice, and why protecting your identity online is more important than ever.
My first job
During my freshman and senior years of high school, I worked at Baskin-Robbins. Although Apple is my main job, it has been one of my most fun jobs. I worked there with all my best friends back home in Alexandria, Virginia—one was my manager and periodically fired me because I wasn’t wearing an ugly brown hat. When you’re in high school, you don’t want to wear an ugly brown hat. This experience taught me some really valuable lessons about hourly work and how many hours go into paying for one nice sweater. I also learned that the customer is always right: even if you think you’ve made the right scoop of ice cream, sometimes you haven’t.
My worst job ever
He works as a programmer at a state contractor. Even though I had a degree in computer science, every time we walked into the conference room, I was always mistaken for a secretary. It’s out of date, but I think it really inspired me to go and take the LSAT. (My roommate at the time, who is still one of my closest friends, took it and didn’t want to do it herself.) I don’t know what I was thinking, like, who would want to do that on a Saturday? But I took it, and [my score] it worked out really well, so I went to law school instead. I still thank her; she was really responsible for my career.
How I felt when I joined Apple
Apple’s business model is very different. During my first meeting, when we discussed what data engineers could collect from the device, a colleague told me: “We could combine that data with all the other data we collect and somehow identify someone, but we don’t want to do that.” I thought, Wow, I’ve arrived at a place that really, really protects privacy. During the San Bernardino case, we were asked to open a phone that was found in [the suspect’s] car and it was a really tough discussion. We would open this phone if we could open it and not affect other phones, but we couldn’t, so we decided we wanted to protect all our customers and resist the government’s demands to create an operating system that would make virtually all other phones vulnerable.
Ways to protect your privacy online
If a choice arises, read it carefully — and pay attention. Every website has a lot of options that make it difficult, but if you’re on iOS, we’ve really tried to make this choice simple and practical, whether you’re looking at sensitive food labels or the privacy of your app. report or review privacy settings. AND I think. Pause when one of these boxes appears and read a little about what it says. Also, go back and look at the choices you’ve made, because even I, in the heat of simply wanting something, make certain choices. That, and always think before you post. Data gets there and is very difficult to get back.
The best career advice I’ve ever received
Someone wise once told me when I was young that when the road comes, sometimes you have to take it. Looking back, I can say that if I had fallen in love with one career, I would never have been here because privacy wasn’t even a specialty during my first seven years of law practice—there was no such thing as a privacy attorney. With every turn in my career I always thought, Well, you know what, I can do it, if it doesn’t work out, there are other options to come back. Sometimes it’s hard to take that step, but try not to always focus on the future and take advantage of these opportunities when they come, because you may end up in a completely new major like I did.
Why privacy is more important than ever
Many people will say, “Privacy doesn’t matter to me at all; I don’t care, anyone can take my data,’ but then you pick up a newspaper, and if you live on the East Coast, there was a period when you couldn’t gas up your car because the pipeline was being held hostage by ransomware. It’s about data and security, and ultimately, if you don’t have security, you don’t have privacy. So every day you hear or read about different intrusions…ads are very big right now and I think people would be very surprised by the amount of data that exists about them in the B2B world. This is something that we try very hard to bring to the attention of our customers, not because we want them to make a choice one way or another, but because we really want them to know about it.
My approach to managing my online identity
As a parent and because I’ve been in private for so long through various movements, I’d say I’m not very active online. I tend to be someone who keeps my personal autonomy pretty close. My daughter is 18 years old and we have had a long conversation about the many issues kids face online these days. I think a lot of people would be shocked to learn how common sexting is among the teenage crowd—we’ve talked about it before. She once told me a story about a girl who shared a nude photo with her then-boyfriend that went viral all over the internet. When you start thinking about privacy as being in control of what the world thinks about you, about your personal autonomy, every time you hit publish or share, you’re not going back—you’re giving a little bit of yourself to the world.
Children now have social identities that they must create. There were times in my life where I could redefine myself, from high school to college to college to law school, you could leave everything behind. Now you have so much wasted data and then the peer pressure to constantly post and constantly look like you’re having a great time.
How I navigated the change in privacy legislation
I’ve been at Apple for 10 years, and the regulatory framework has only gotten tougher. Europe actually leads the way in privacy laws – we’ve had to put in place a much stricter compliance function, and as more laws come in, you have to make sure that the company is complying with those laws. With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is the European version, we have essentially committed to giving our customers the same user rights as Europeans, regardless of where they sit. We have created a worldwide compliance function to ensure that all our customers are in a privileged position to have the same user rights as in Europe.
A lesson I learned the hard way
Autofill. Sometimes you have to really look before you write. Make sure the address you send it to during autofill is actually that address. Another is personal hygiene. Every month or so I’ll go back to them and think, “What? Why did I give this app access to geodata in the background?” The beauty of how we’ve designed things is that you can go back and look at the choices you’ve made and take control again.
This interview has been edited and shortened for clarity.
Claire Stern, Associate Editor of ELLE.com. She previously worked as an editor at Bergdorf Goodman. Her interests include fashion, food, travel, music, Peloton and The hills— not necessarily in this order. She used to have a Harriet the Spy notebook, and she’s not ashamed to admit it.