Marcela Mattiuzzo
  • Partner
  • VMCA
Brazil
Marcela Mattiuzzo

Marcela Mattiuzzo

  • Partner
  • VMCA
Brazil

My original field of expertise was competition law, but I entered the data world by way of digital markets, already focusing on the relevance of data as an asset in this context. Coming to the data field felt somewhat natural. I also focused my academic studies on algorithmic discrimination, and that led to an organic addition of data protection to my toolbox. With the discussions and the approval of the LGPD, I decided to officially establish myself in data as well.

My time in government was absolutely crucial for my career. I learned a lot in a very short period of time, was faced with several challenges and had the chance to work with amazing people. But the establishment of the data protection and technology practice at VMCA, with myself as partner, was definitely a high point as well. It felt really great, but of course it was not without its challenges – which is part of the reason I consider it a highlight, because we were able to overcome those challenges and become a highly regarded firm in Brazil.

The challenges in Brazil are so many that it is hard to choose one, so I would say that we are currently facing two main challenges.

The first is creating a data protection culture: actually explaining and convincing people that this is an important aspect of their routines and that their behaviour needs to change in order to adapt to it. Changing behaviour and how things work in practice is tremendously hard, but it is also a necessary step in this process.

The second would be a challenge that is not precisely my own, but that needs to be faced by the Brazilian data protection community as a whole and by our data protection authority in particular: the hard job of filling in the gaps of the law. We all know it is a process, it takes time and it will not be ready overnight, but still, there is so much to do that I cannot help but feel like it is a crucial endeavour that will take a village to overcome.

Being a lawyer in this field is particularly interesting because I get the chance to advise many different organisations regarding these challenges. What you come to understand is that there truly is no one-size-fits-all approach. Creating a data protection culture, for instance, can be approached in many different ways. What works will depend on the specifics of that organisation, on how leadership wants to move forward, also on budget and a myriad of other aspects. What I do believe is advice that tends to work for everyone is the need to truly understand your business – and of course this is not solely true for data-related matters. But it is indeed essential to understand how your organisation operates before you try to change anything in it, which again emphasises the no one-size-fits-all idea. I believe that, coming from competition law, I have a natural tendency to aim at understanding the business before I do anything else and this is something I always try to convey to clients.

Right now there are two main trends that I consistently follow. The first is the debate regarding AI regulation. It is obviously a world in itself, but I focus very much on discussions surrounding automated decision-making within AI. My PhD deals with personalised pricing and my Masters was focused on algorithmic discrimination, so I also have an academic agenda that closely connects to that discussion.

The second is the debate on disinformation and elections. We have a general election coming up in Brazil later this year, and the discussions are extremely heated and could have significant impact on data protection legislation (and also on competition law, for that matter). We have a bill in Congress, number 2630, that is at the brink of being approved, and its repercussions will be major.

I do not know if gender led me to approach the discussion differently, but I certainly turned my attention to algorithmic discrimination and the whole discussion that surrounds it because of gender issues – at least that was my initial pull. I believe it both made me more aware of why this mattered so much, but also forced me to understand that differentiation and discrimination are not the same, and that we may need to find where this difference lies if we want to advance this debate in any way. I would also say that what gender has taught me to approach differently is making sure that, for whatever issue you have in your hands, it is not only good to have more people debating it, but it is also crucial to have diverse people debating it. Distinct backgrounds allow us to see things differently, and that is true for gender, for ethnic origin, for religion and so on. What I have learned (or rather what I keep learning everyday) is that you will have better solutions if you allow yourself to think differently, and that in order to do that, you need people who will push you in that direction.

In terms of how the data field has changed for women professionals over the last decade, I believe it is worth saying that the data field has not been around in Brazil for a very long time, at least not as an independent and consolidated practice area. After the LGPD was approved, back in 2018, it picked up momentum, but before then it was certainly a much more limited field. Now, it is booming. For women in particular, I believe we are looking at a field that has a lot of opportunity, notably in the legal area. Cybersecurity is much more dominated by men, but data protection has a better balance. We also have very important figures in Brazil leading data protection that are women: perhaps the most notable would be Miriam Wimmer who has been active in the area for a very long time and is now a director at the data protection authoirity. All in all, I see the field positively when it comes to women professionals – which is not to say that there is no work to be done, there is, but for instance we have a much longer road ahead when it comes to racial challenges in data and law in general compared to gender.

There are two main pieces of advice I would like to give, one to any aspiring professionals, and one to women in particular. First: be curious and be humble. Assume that people can always teach you something, and take the opportunity to learn. Second: if you have something to say, say it; do not be afraid or doubt whether you belong somewhere. Often, women adopt a posture that is socially understood to be polite – generally not being very assertive and always leaving room for others to claim their ideas. Do not be afraid to speak up.

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