Manuela Adrogué
  • Marval, O’Farrell & Mairal
Manuela Adrogué

Manuela Adrogué

  • Marval, O’Farrell & Mairal

What do you do?

In a strict sense, what I do is mainly advise companies on how to process personal data by complying with data protection regulations.

However, I’ve found out that the short answer does not make what I do on a daily basis any clearer, unless you are talking to someone from the niche! A broader answer would be that I deal on a daily basis with issues that revolve around privacy and data protection, privacy compliance, privacy in internal investigations and at the workplace, privacy and data protection in clinical studies, fintech and crypto technology, software licensing, IT agreements, IT compliance, and cybersecurity in connection with technology. It is definitely a thriving area, and I have to analyse its implementation in diverse businesses and complex M&A deals.

Why data?

There are two main reasons that made me passionate about data protection and privacy. The first is that it is an area of study that is still being developed around the world and which poses great unanswered questions about technology, efficiency, privacy, data protection and economics as the internet is still under development and new technological advancements are being made. That keeps pushing me to find solutions that have not been addressed and to think outside the box. The challenge is just mouth-watering. Secondly, my education and training allowed me to visualise that the protection of personal data and privacy translates into the protection of human rights: being able to protect data subjects’ rights by providing solid advice to my clients is a pleasure that is not particularly common in the corporate world.

What’s keeping you busy?

Besides work and taking care of our clients, what really keeps me busy is that I’m expecting my very first child, so she’s occupying every spare thought that I have!

What mentors or other influential figures have helped you get where you are today?

There are so many people and circumstances that have helped me get to where I am today – saying “no woman is an island” holds more truth now than ever.

I would not be able to mention every person that has helped me get here but there are certain key figures that come to mind, such as dedicated professors who guided me when I needed them most with their generous advice; friends and colleagues with whom I could exchange views, fears and opportunities; Marval and its IT Team with their spectacular intellectual and human generosity (especially Gustavo Giay and Diego Fernández who welcomed me in the team and made me feel so comfortable working with them from the very first moment); my family who have always guided me towards an intellectual existence; and, my husband, a partner who is a real partner and is always pushing me to go the extra mile – even when I have my doubts.

If you could change one data-related law, how and why would you change it?

I think that the answer to that question does not rely on the need to reform any particular law, as the solution would still be a local one when the problem is global. Therefore, to change one data-related law, in a highly connected world, would feel like falling short.

My experience has taught me that what is very much needed is an international treaty on the processing and protection of personal data. A good solution would be a TRIPS-style treaty that provides controllers, processors and data subjects certainty on how personal data is processed in a wide range of jurisdictions. That would be the way in which the patchwork that is nowadays trying to regulate the processing of personal data would be straightened up.

How has covid-19 affected what you do?

The covid-19 pandemic pushed our team to work around the clock on sensitive solutions to an ever-expanding digital market, which inevitably has data protection and privacy considerations. We had to do this while the team was also adapting to working 100% remotely, which was an additional challenge that was successfully overcome. Additionally, while legal entities, government institutions and individuals were shelling millions to adapt to the “new normal,” our team had to always be ready to give accurate, conclusive and quick, yet not light, advice on novel situations – which meant that we had to be on top of our game the whole year. I would say that we were not just giving professional advice: we also had to assume the position of guardians of data subjects’ personal data as the world was overwhelmingly invading privacy on behalf of the greater good.

What’s the next big thing – what data opportunities are companies now looking at?

Companies have internalised in their day-to-day projects the reputational value associated with processing personal data in a transparent way by providing data subjects control over how their personal data is processed. I believe that the market is moving towards that direction, whereby empowering data subjects, companies are gaining a huge asset that they might not have been aware of a couple of years ago: trust.

What’s keeping companies worried at the moment – what are some key data risks?

Covid-19 pushed the digital world into a level of development that was expected to happen over the next decade – but within just one year. As with all things that happen fast, you just need some time to take it all in. I think that’s how companies are now dealing with this new digital horizon that has opened before them. Companies are first trying to grasp what happened, and the different risks, and opportunities, that come along with it. A huge challenge to address is how to maximise these new business opportunities while still complying with data protection regulations. What I find very interesting is that even technology-neutral legislation is lagging behind in the face of these new technological developments. Moreover, this new scenario might also trigger the need for legislative updates as new privacy dilemmas arise.

What do you do to relax?

I run as much as I can – that’s the one physical activity that has accompanied me no matter where or what. For leisure, I would definitely say going to the theatre and enjoying a good play, but still, my best plan is meeting up with my husband, friends or family and just spending hours together talking and talking over a good meal and drinks.

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