Christine Huang, Data Privacy & Management Leader

Christine Huang has over a decade of experience in the technology regulatory domain. She has worked in all the major continents, across a spectrum of sectors, including telecommunication, mobile technology, Fintech, e-commerce, and consultancy, gaining invaluable insights into the unique privacy challenges and opportunities each industry presents. Her ability to navigate complex regulatory landscapes, combined with her keen understanding of emerging technologies, has equipped her with ability to translate complex privacy concepts into actionable strategies, ensuring that businesses balance innovation with data protection.

In the recent years, she has expanded her privacy horizon by taking up different privacy related responsibilities from software product design, privacy program management, cloud governance and compliance, and digital workflow transformation, to most recently enterprise privacy operation and information governance in life sciences sector. Christine’s work is a testament to the belief that privacy is not just a compliance requirement but a fundamental right that should be upheld across all sectors.

Recently, in an exclusive interview with CXO Magazine, Christine shared her insights on how disruptive technologies are impacting today’s healthcare industry, her career trajectory, personal role model, future plans, words of wisdom, and much more. The following excerpts are taken from the interview.

How are disruptive technologies like Artificial Intelligence/IoT/ Automation/Cloud Computing/Robotics impacting today’s healthcare industry?

The convergence of all these disruptive technologies is transforming various industries, including healthcare and life sciences at a very fast pace.  At the same time, this explosion of innovation also has many privacy implications that need to be considered not just for a point in time, but the ripple effects these technologies have. Let’s begin with the impact on data.

Data Volume, Variety and Accessibility: The adoption of IoT devices, wearables, and the advancement of AI, have led to a surge of data volume, in healthcare as well as all others.  IoT devices enable continuously collection of patient information such as vital signs, activity levels, and medication adherence. Real-world data from IoT devices and patient records is also increasingly used in clinical trials and research. Data generated via electronic health records (EHRs) systems streamline data management. The extensive collection of patient health data requires robust security measures, and many would require patient consent for data sharing. How to strike a balance between data protection measures and innovation requires careful risk-based privacy engineering consideration.

Cloud computing and edge computing solutions have made healthcare data readily available and more accessible AI-driven EHR systems can automatically extract relevant information from unstructured clinical notes, images, improving data accuracy and usability. The convenience and efficiency require a thorough analysis of organizational security landscape, implement encryption with strong algorithms and key management to ensure segregation of duties and environments to protect data at rest, in transit and in use. Additionally, with all the accessibility creates new threat vectors, use strong Identity Access Management (IAM) tool to enforce strict access control to not only prevent unauthorized access but also enforce need-to-know/attribute basis (RBAC) especially for inter-company access/sharing; and understand applicable regulatory restrictions such as data residency, retention policies and 3rd party sharing agreements. Along with develop and test incident response to ensure effective response and communication during unfortunate events.

Data Quality and Accuracy: AI algorithms help improve data quality by identifying errors and inconsistencies in medical records, leading to more accurate diagnoses and treatment plans. This is crucial for any data driven technology advancement. However, it cannot be done without introducing transparency to the process, such as identify any regulatory requirements that associate with data, which can potentially restrict certain AI-enabled processing to avoid the risk of re-identification via profiling or combining datasets.

Workflow Integration: Integrating AI and IoT technologies into existing healthcare workflows can be complex. Process automation often leaves privacy consideration behind. To avoid rework the workflow integration, it is paramount to run a privacy analysis or even better a privacy impact assessment (PIA) to identify any changes or new data elements to the existing process.

Furthermore, there is also far-reaching environmental and social impact. For example, the manufacturing and disposal of IoT devices can contribute to electronic waste and energy consumption. The energy consumption of data canters that support AI can contribute to carbon emissions.

From societal impact perspectives, the uneven distribution of technology across the globe can create even a greater impact in healthcare disparities; economic inequalities; geopolitical division. In education, whether unequal access to technology can exacerbate education inequalities; for public safety, surveillance technologies can raise concerns about civil liberties and privacy; in employment, the ongoing concerns on automation may displace certain job, if employees do not re/up skill.

Responsible development and innovation especially in healthcare must be approached with careful consideration of these opportunities and challenges. Balancing innovation with privacy rights is key to harness the full potential of these technologies.

What are the biggest opportunities and obstacles you see for innovation in healthtech?

The field of healthtech or life sciences is filled with opportunities for innovation, but it also faces significant obstacles, such as complex regulations, quality standards and emerging laws that aim to regulate the fast and furious medical technology acceleration.

The way healthcare data is delivered, managed and analysed has demonstrated that healthcare technology has gone beyond mere treatments and diagnosis, to more accurate and advanced treatments, robotic surgical assistant, early detection, predictive analytics, to help us stay healthy.

As we all have seen and experienced. For instance, patient care is drastically improved via IoT enabled continuously monitoring of health metrics; AI-driven diagnostic analytics can be performed on images, patient records, real-time data; advances in genomics and precision medicine enable tailored treatments, robotics and automation enhance operational efficiency in hospitals and clinics, from automating routine tasks to assisting in surgery; cloud-based platforms facilitate global collaboration in research and data sharing.

With workflow automation, AI-enabled medical documentation process reduced healthcare professionals’ administrative burden, increase accuracy, accessibility, and efficiency. AI use in medical device manufacturing, imaging, closes the gaps where human capabilities have limitation of.  Robotic training assistants help physicians to learn new medical technology more effectively.

And not just healthtech alone, these technologies are changing every sector, from education to employment, from manufacturing to retail and e-commerce, from government and public services to financial services, any so many more.

Unfortunately, this technology evolution also poses challenges related to data security, privacy, ethics, hence the need for robust infrastructure and governance. We need to stay vigilant with data protection, and adopt AI –enabled security tools, such as AI-enhanced anomaly and behavioural analytics; use NLP in linguistic patterns in emails to detect social engineering attempts or unusual language that may indicate phishing. Not to mention with increasing adoption of enterprise virtual assistants, chatbots, it is important to ensure sensitive data is not inadvertently shared.

Some equally pressing obstacles are:

Interoperability Challenges: Companies often use different software and data formats, making data exchange and interoperability complex. Achieving seamless data sharing is a major hurdle. Implementing healthtech solutions can also be costly and may require significant infrastructure upgrades.

Ethical Concerns: The ethical use of patient or health data and AI in healthcare, including bias mitigation and transparency in AI algorithms, is a critical challenge. Decisions made by AI algorithms may raise ethical dilemmas, especially in life-and-death situations. Questions about accountability, auditability and decision-making authority arise.

Health Inequities: Innovations may inadvertently exacerbate health inequities if not designed with the needs of underserved populations in mind. Access to technology and digital literacy are key issues.

Sustainable and responsible innovation is dependent on how the obstacles, particularly those related to data privacy, security, regulation, and ethical considerations, are tackled.

Christine, you have worked in many different sectors, can you describe your experience in different sectors and industries?

In my career, I have had the privilege of working across a diverse range of sectors, from telecommunications, consultancy, data protection technology, semiconductor, cloud technology, to medical technology. In addition, I have had the honor to interact with some amazing industry leaders and experts in finance, biometrics, mobile technology, e-commerce, and Fintech.

I started out in telecommunication, where I focused on ensuring compliance with telecom regulations while safeguarding customer and consumer trust, preserve investor confidence and market recognition.

My time in legal and consultancy, I collaborated with clients to address privacy compliance issues across industries such as healthcare, finance, and e-commerce, etc. Helping clients to navigate complex regulatory landscapes and provide tailored privacy solutions to clients from various industries.

During my tenure in the semiconductor sector, my primary focus was on securing sensitive data which can be trade secrets, sensitive employee and customer data, and intellectual property which is paramount to securing the supply chain.

My experience in the software sector allowed me to work with some of the world class engineers and architects on developing privacy-by-design principles for digital products and services, ensuring privacy and security requirements in digital product development.

As with my current chapter, I am fortunate enough to witness amazing the transformation of medical technology from idea to market, helping cardiovascular patients in every remote corner of the world to live a normal life. I collaborate with my brilliant colleagues in this mission driven and purpose defined company to drive even greater innovation with strong data privacy and compliance principles and robust security posture.

This varied experience has equipped me with a holistic understanding of privacy and ability to translate complex privacy concepts into actionable strategies, ensuring that businesses and individuals alike can benefit from responsible data handling.

You are a Chapter Chair at OneTrust PrivacyConnect. Can you tell us about this community platform and its mission and vision?

I am sure OT has far more empowering vision and mission for this PrivacyConnect platform. I will perhaps relate from my experience in leading the chapter. I joined at the beginning of the covid pandemic, with little experience in leading a virtual community. I was supported by OT’s ample resources and expertise in event management and of course the support from my network of amazing colleagues and friends.

OT has become the privacy synonym. This community gathers a diverse group of privacy experts to help the privacy world stay interconnected, and use local chapters to bring privacy literacy regionally, and globally. It provides a platform for privacy professionals to share knowledges and frustration; a platform for everyone to ask questions and discuss their top-of-mind concerns; and a community to empower individuals or companies with regulatory updates and practical guidance. Each panel discussions and publications are not commercially generated, but they are topics from the community, the discussions are voices of the community. I am grateful to have met so many amazing people in this community and to be part of the many wonderful discussions.

Do you notice a lack of women in technology? If so, why do you think that’s the case?

I have not actually. Maybe the companies that I have worked for are all strong advocates for gender equality. Although I have not witnessed a shortage of women in my circle, I do understand there could be reasons why there is a lack of women in technology. Gender stereotypes and biases, together with unconscious hiring bias can be the main reason. Other factors such as education and pay disparities can widen the gap too. That is another reason that we need to be very conscious to use HR technology and reduce the bias and close the gap. And many companies, both my past and present employers are doing a fantastic job to support and encourage community promote Youth STEM education, so I would encourage everyone to look at all jobs and professions as gender-neural but capability defined. There are so many areas of technology that would benefit from gender diversity.

Lastly, it is really important to have mentorship support, and I am again very fortunate to work with many great mentors who believe in me and guide me or even just there for sanity check.

Looking back, which women in your life have had the most influence on your career?

I have met and worked with many influential female leaders and co-workers in my career, they are not necessarily all leaders, but in various aspects of my career, they have created an impact.

Instead of naming them all, I think I will point to one person that has the longest influence in my life. She is my grandmother, she became an orphan at a very young age, and was raised by her grandmother who never had a chance for education and became very sick when my grandmother was still a teen. I would say my grandmother raised herself, took care of her grandmother, never forfeited education, and supported her own family during many hardships such as China’s Culture Revolution, when my grandfather had to be brought in for “questionings” at random times. They lived on food stamps with three kids including my mother. My grandmother later became a workforce leader in her time, when being a female in workforce was rare, and even rarer to lead some of the government backed companies. She led with compassion, provided equal chance to grow for everyone, and gave everyone who opposed her the benefit of the doubt.

My dear grandmother has dementia now, so she does not recognize me. But I know she remembers me, as she often smiles when she looks at childhood photos of me. I hope she also remembers that I have told her repeatedly that she is forever my hero.

What does the term “authentic leadership” mean to you?

To me, authentic leadership really comes down to three principles or qualities.

1. Empathy and genuineness

This is something that AI cannot replace. As a leader you need to listen to understand even from the smallest voice in the room. That is how you earn respect and operate with integrity.

2. Transparency and Trust

Transparent in communication and decision-making, that is how you foster trust in work environment and create the sense of belong for the team or workforce.

3. Accountability and resilience

It a good thing to have both in privacy and leadership style. Leaders need to take responsibility for the decisions and actions that they make. They also need to exhibit resilience in facing challenges and setbacks. They maintain their authenticity and commitment to their values even during tough times.

Authentic leaders prioritize honesty and transparency in their interactions with others. They are trusted because their actions align with their words. It is not one-size fits all approach, but these principles foster trust, respect, and a positive team engagement that is built on strong ethical foundation.

Could you highlight some of your success habits that enable you to meet your goal?

I do not think my goal/s have been all met. So, I would just share some habits that are useful to me.

First, I like to ask questions and clarify ambiguities. I do not usually understand silence as a response too well. Therefore, I always clarify. The reason for an email, a question and a call are for interaction and communication. A “Yes, that’s correct” does not take too much time. And if the response is the opposite, you learn from how you should approach the issue, collaboration style and many more.

Second, in the privacy world, where there is a room full of diversity of experts, there are always something to learn. Understand where you want to be the expert, and where you need to collaborate and lean-in on is especially important. No one can do it all in the world of privacy, collaboration is the key.

Third, define small goals, ROIs, KPIs. The value of privacy does not always translate into 4% of fine, cost of data breach. Undeniably compliance to regulatory hurdles is paramount. But privacy operates on data, how data is transformed into information, and why the information is valuable. Therefore, depends on where your focus is under the spectrum of privacy, it is important to quantify the value and goals according to the domain you are in, most often, privacy value comes from data, it’s very important to understand how the data ecosystem works in your specific domain.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?

In the realm of privacy and data protection, where uncertainty is the norm. I see a journey of continuous growth, learning and hopefully making a positive impact to the workstreams that I lead and adding tangible values across different business processes.

As we know privacy and innovation are not mutually exclusive, I hope to foster a culture of innovation based on privacy and empowers individual and organizations to make informed choices based on data. Data knows no border, neither should our efforts to protect it.

What is the one piece of advice that you can share with other professionals in the tech industry?

Be curious, be responsible, and be humble.

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