Presentation: Data, GDPR & Privacy: Doing It "Right" Without Losing It All

Track: Ethics in Computing

Location: Soho Complex, 7th fl.

Duration: 11:50am - 12:40pm

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Slides: Download Slides

Level: Intermediate

Persona: CTO/CIO/Leadership, Developer, General Software

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What You’ll Learn

  • Learn about how SparkPost addressed GDPR requirements.

  • Hear approaches of protecting user privacy while still having access to information and driving innovation.

  • Level set GDPR and privacy regulations for those that may have some awareness and offer pragmatic guidance for dealing with some of the requirements.


We all know someone (or maybe you're that person) that tries to live off the data grid as much as possible. They don't participate in grocery store rewards programs; ad blockers are turned on; cookies disabled; they wouldn't be caught dead on social media. They value their data to an extreme... and it's not hard to understand why. 

Finding a news story these days where some organization's customer data has been breached (looking at you Equifax, Target, Home Depot, Uber....) is as easy as checking out google news.  Even worse there are the companies who haven't been breached, they just actively allow your data to be actively mined and used for purposes you were never aware of (Hey, Facebook). These breaches and intrusions into individuals personal information cause real harm, lead to a great deal of mistrust by consumers, and impact the ability for corporate citizens with positive intentions to innovate and drive value to the same individuals. 

At the same time that data breaches and privacy intrusions are popping up at an uncomfortable rate, the technology space for collecting, categorizing, visualizing, and targeting data is growing even more rapidly. Look at nearly any technology, marketing, product, or customer success focused conference and you're sure to see sessions, if not a full track, dedicated to the all encompassing big data story.  Looking at one specific industry, such as the world of email, data is leveraged to inform what to send, to whom, and when. The thought of stripping away access to these fundamental insights seems terrifying to companies who are constantly looking for a way to increase engagement and conversion.  So what are companies to do? How do you mesh the desire and ability to leverage an abundance of valuable insights, with the resonsibility to do so in a careful and permitted way?

In this talk we'll journey through the world of data at our fingertips; the privacy concerns and subsequent regulations that come with so much information; and, how to operate a business that does both the "Right" thing for the consumer, whithout impact the ability to innovate, personalize, and grow.


What’s the focus of the work you do today?


I am a VP of products at SparkPost and I head up the product team. Product at SparkPost falls under the technology organization, and we partner with other teams such as engineering, compliance, and customer success. My role as head of product is to look at the SparkPost service as a whole, not just the features and functions that we deliver. Some parts of the service we focus on are the customer experience and ensuring we are protecting ourselves as well as our customers and their customers.


What’s an example of a step in the journey you’ll be sharing?


One thing we’ll do is level set GDPR and privacy regulations for those that may have some awareness. It's important that we have a baseline understanding in the room because everyone has varying opinions on what is PII and what we should keep and not keep. Another step was digging into our data and investigating how we’re using it. You always have to think about where the data is going and how it’s being used and rehashed and encoded. You really have to determine what's important to you, what's important and brings value to your own consumers and even their customers. It’s a constant journey, and I think that's part of the story. But that doesn't mean that we can't do useful and innovative things. There's a lot that we want to do with data. There's a lot we think will add value to our customers.


What do you feel is the most important trend in software today?


I think seeing data as a way to add value to people's lives. Data is a useful tool for helping us learn what additional things we could be doing and creating. But we also have to protect each other and realize that not everybody is as comfortable having information out there. We have to protect people's interest, make them feel comfortable with what we're doing, build trust, and continue to innovate. Probably the biggest thing from a software standpoint is trust. It’s important to show customers that you care about their best interests through how you develop and what you bring to the market.

Speaker: Amie Durr

Vice President of Product Management @SparkPost

Amie Durr is responsible for delivering technologies that help businesses support and drive their messaging needs with a focus on scale, usability, engagement, and analytics. As the only person she knows with a background in both Mathematics and Anthropology, Amie has spent her career marrying her love of data and technology with her love of understanding people and processes. She is an evangelist and strong supporter of innovation and generally doing cool stuff, championing both the voice of the customer and the market, as well as the creative, technical skills of the engineers.

Find Amie Durr at