Santa Clara County Hires Its First-Ever Chief Privacy Officer

Santa Clara County appointed its first privacy chief, U.S. Army veteran and security expert Mike Shapiro. The Board of Supervisors announced his hire at a subcommittee meeting Thursday.

Supervisor Joe Simitian pushed the county this year to establish the nation’s first Privacy Center of Excellence, and said hiring a chief privacy official was the logical next step.

Mike Shapiro.

Mike Shapiro.

“Santa Clara County, as a government, collects sensitive and personal information, including health, financial, voting, and criminal records,” Simitian said in a press release about the new hire. “With Mike Shapiro on board, I’m hopeful that we can become a national leader—in not only protecting that information from outside assault, but in handling it appropriately within the County.”

Shapiro comes to the county with experience in both the public and private sectors, where he trained government agencies and corporations on data breaches and program development.

In his first report to the county’s Finance and Open Government Committee last week, Shapiro and Chief Information Security Officer Justin Dietrich listed ongoing efforts to improve privacy aspects of policies on surveillance, whistleblower protections, patient confidentiality and data sharing.

Shapiro said he’s eager to help the county build a robust privacy program, which could set an example for other local governments. Developing Simitian’s vision for a Privacy Center of Excellence will require balancing personal privacy with the benefits of information sharing, Shapiro said.

“I’m ready to use my skills to create an enterprise privacy program in support of constituent and employee privacy alike,” Shapiro said in a statement.

He added: “We’re in Silicon Valley, and in our unique region, we have the ability to work with academia and the tech industry on the most urgent privacy threats and solutions.”

This county is apparently one of the few in the U.S. with a dedicated chief privacy officer. Some states don’t even have one yet, noted Shapiro, whose hire is part of a longstanding effort by Simitian to bolster privacy protections. According to his office, the supervisor sponsored 12 privacy-related laws in as many years in the California legislature. Simitian also chaired the Select Committee on Privacy in both the Assembly and the state Senate.

Simitian introduced what became the country’s first data breach disclosure law, which requires companies to notify affected customers if their information is compromised. He also co-authored legislation that required website operators that collect sensitive information to clearly post and abide by a privacy policy.

When Simitian came back from Sacramento to local government, he led the county to adopt transparency rules for surveillance technology, including law enforcement tools such as cellphone towers, computer hacks, license plate scanners and GPS trackers.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. Believe Simitian led the opposition to Sheriff Smith’s failed efforts to obtain Stingray cellphone snooping equipment like SJPD’s. If only the departments would learn to play nice and borrow each other’s equipment. We don’t need multiple bomb units, nor multiple Stingrays – there’s not enough usage to justify redundant units.

  2. > Santa Clara County appointed its first privacy chief, U.S. Army veteran and security expert Mike Shapiro. The Board of Supervisors announced his hire at a subcommittee meeting Thursday.


    How about making Mike’s first assignment tracking down the people in Obama’s IRS who demanded to know from “Tea Party Taxpayers” what god they prayed to.

    • Me too, but am not expecting much. Likely just conducting internal awareness training, issuing guidance, traveling to seminars & conferences at resort locations. Detecting unauthorized records access – then firing violators? “Salting” (introducing false records) to catch offenders? Probably not. Investigating leaks from VMC, Sheriff, and Planning? Probably not either. Will likely take years just to encrypt sensitive data and implement minimal controls.

      The first order of business will be to build a staff – just like the Women’s Office and LGBT Office.

  3. I guess all the pot holes are fixed now, so we have enough money to fund a ‘Chief Privancy’ drone.

    A question: why do we elect these folks? I was under the impression that their job is to run the County for the benefit of the residents. But whenever I see or hear anything about these electeds, they’re either preening for the camera, or they’re pontificating.

    Question #2: where is this new ‘Privacy’ position in the scheme of things? The Supes have made ‘privacy’ a priority… but what about those pot holes? Where is that priority? From the looks of our streets, just abouty everything has a higher priority than the County’s infrastructure.

    Remember these things next November. There’s an election, and isn’t that how we change this anti-resident attitude? How many votes is one drone worth, anyway? Last I heard, it’s still one person, one vote. Mrs. Smokey & me have twice as many votes as one drone.

    Are the Supes listening? Do they care? Or, is the fix in …?

  4. > Santa Clara County Hires Its First-Ever Chief Privacy Officer

    Almost certainly the “privacy” they’re most concerned about “protecting” is the privacy of politicians and bureaucrats.

    I suspect it’s really just an “anti-Freedom of Information Act” / anti- government transparency ploy.

    That’s what HIPAA turned out to be. We can no longer learn about Politician X’s drug problem, or drinking problem, or STD’s, dementia, or psychosis. “Medical privacy” don’t you know.

    • Any amount is too much. The Supes are just wasting our money by creating a job for a pal.

      The fix is in; they didn’t post this new make-work job, interview applicants, and award it to the best qualified.

      Instead they just threw a bone to a pal, and now taxpayers have another unnecessary job to subsidize. But they don’t really care about the taxpayers. If they did, they’d get off our backs…

      “I sit on a man’s back, choking him and making him carry me, and yet I assure others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by all possible means — except by getting off his back.”

      ~ Leo Tolstoy

      • Good catch, Smokey. Didn’t realize that the job wasn’t filled per the standard hiring practice. Didn’t find anything noteworthy about Mike Shapiro. One reference (among over a dozen) in an acknowledgement for a security paper. No authorship, speaking engagements, or anything else to warrant his hiring that I found. Certainly no rock star – doesn’t seem he knows how to play an instrument or lead a group.

        The south bay is pretty much the epicenter for information security. Astounding that Shapiro would be hired when there’s abundant local expertise.

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