Features

Allison Levy – Flight Centre Travel Group

Enjoy your trip—your information’s safe, says privacy officer

It’s been almost 50 years since two guys bought a double-decker bus and set off to tour Spain, Portugal and Morocco under the name Topdeck Travel.

It was an offbeat approach, but then the ‘70s were an offbeat decade, and the company proved a big hit for its founders, Graham “Skroo” Turner (nicknamed for a popular screwdriver) and his friend, Geoff “Spy” Lomas.

Allison Levy | Chief Privacy Officer for the Americas | Flight Centre Travel Group

Allison Levy | Chief Privacy Officer for the Americas | Flight Centre Travel Group

What’s now Flight Centre Travel Group has more than 30 brands offering air travel for business or leisure with locations in Australia, New Zealand, the U.S., U.K., Canada, India, China, Hong Kong and Mexico. Protecting customers’ personal information is a crucial part of the journeys they provide, says Allison Levy.

“My role is independent because I’m not a [practicing] lawyer, so I can make sure our processes and policies we implement as a controller value the privacy of our travelers and make sure their needs are met and expected,” Levy says.

Privacy becomes a priority

Levy joined Flight Centre Travel Group as chief privacy officer for the Americas in 2018, months after the European Union began enforcing its General Data Privacy Regulations.

While those regulations weren’t always applicable to North American operations, she soon had to comply with amendments strengthening Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. In Mexico, data protection laws had been on the books since 2011 but were also getting tougher.

Allison Levy | Chief Privacy Officer for the Americas | Flight Centre Travel Group

“I find a way to harmonize these rules in addition to GDPR that’s feasible and works and gets people where they need to go,” she says. “It’s more than interpreting the legal aspects, it’s about understanding the risk.”

Breaching any of the strict rules leads to fines, legal action and litigation, and other costs including investigations and the loss of revenue and reputation. So, Levy says she often takes practical steps, like asking customers to enter data in a portal instead of saving and auto-filling their information.

Policies cover patchwork

In the U.S., there’s still little federal privacy oversight outside the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, and California, Colorado and Virginia are the only states to enact data privacy laws to date. The California Consumer Protection Act, which grants consumers the right to know, delete, and opt-out of the sale of the personal information collected by businesses, is the default the Flight Centre Travel Group uses for privacy protection in the U.S., Levy says.

Even then, it’s a moving target—it’s already been amended after a 2020 referendum to prohibit companies from making the opt-out process more confusing or forcing visitors to click through multiple screens. Levy says Flight Centre Travel Group made it simple before CCPA was amended—and had made those improvements nationwide.

Allison Levy | Chief Privacy Officer for the Americas | Flight Centre Travel Group

“We don’t want to have people have to press special links because their state hasn’t passed legislation, so we go beyond that,” Levy says. “We’re overinclusive. If you want your data deleted, we’ll delete your data.”

Each new product and service requires Levy to make a risk analysis, though that requirement is only arising in U.S. laws. She begins by reviewing proposals, ensuring they’re not only user friendly for Flight Centre Travel Group’s customers and agents, but that access and personal information is limited and that what information is needed is not retained longer than it needs to be.

“Are we a travel company or tech company? [This] is how it can feel at times,” Levy says. “Each brand poses their own risk for travel services.”

In the consumer’s shoes

Levy was born and raised in southern New Jersey and has remained in and around The Garden State for most her life. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania with dual majors in international relations and French in 2002. While that might have portended a career in diplomacy, Levy attracted to the law and earned her J.D. from Rutgers University School of Law – Camden in 2006.

“I can’t recall a time when I didn’t want to be a lawyer. There was no other calling I felt,” Levy says. “I definitely think I’m more inclined to see multiple sides of an argument or discussion. I loved when I was learning how to interpret and read statutes and figure out a way around them, too.”

Before attending law school, she served as a paralegal for the U.S. Department of Justice Criminal Division for a year, researching international law, treaties and U.N. resolutions. She also prepared briefing materials for government officials traveling abroad. After graduating, Levy practiced corporate and finance law as an associate as the firms of Reed Smith LLP and Duane Morris LLP from 2006 to 2013.

Allison Levy | Chief Privacy Officer for the Americas | Flight Centre Travel Group

In March 2013, Levy became corporate and compliance counsel at RCN. In January 2016, she joined Capsugel as senior corporate counsel and director. In 2018, she joined Flight Centre Travel Group and was promoted to her current position in January 2020.

Levy now lives in northern New Jersey, and her husband is a basketball coach at Wagner College on Staten Island, New York. They’re raising a son who’s now 4 years old and they also enjoy traveling to places including India. Levy isn’t practicing law in her role at Flight Centre Travel Group but says her background as an attorney comes in handy as she oversees privacy.

“Privacy is a fundamental right, even when the law doesn’t require it. That’s our mission,” Levy says. “I put myself in the place of a consumer all the time. I ask, ‘what would I expect, what do I need and how would I want my data to be treated?’”

View this feature in the Vanguard Winter II 2022 Edition here.

Published on: January 6, 2022

regions:

categories:

Showcase your feature on your website with a custom “As Featured in Vanguard” badge that links directly to your article!

Copy and paste this script into your page coding (ideally right before the closing tag) where you want to display our review banner.

Testimonials

The piece highlighting my company, Bob Baker Enterprises, Inc., came out fabulous. Our company is in the new and used car sales and service industry. Everyone was great to work with and extremely professional. They produced a high-quality product and have provided expert assistance and guidance post-production of the article.
– Wade Poulson, General Counsel, Bob Baker Enterprises Inc.
As promised in advance, my feature in Vanguard has increased my visibility within the profession and prompted more than a few people I have not communicated with recently to reconnect. One of the Italian law firms I have used in the past is now in the process of interviewing me for an article on their website and tweeting out the feature story. Activity and the number of people connecting with me on LinkedIn has soared, which is great. The Vanguard writers and editorial staff were great to work with—highly professional and made the effort to make the experience both fun and rewarding (they were also respectful of the time pressures and demands all lawyers face). I was very pleased with the experience and the final outcome. Needless to say, I have been very pleased. All in all working with Vanguard has been a very positive experience which generated good publicity for both Shawcor and myself. My sincere thanks.
– Tim Hutzul, General Counsel, ShawCor Ltd.
It was a great honor to be featured in Vanguard Law. Working with every member of the team, from the initial interview with Erin Clark, through production with Victor Martins, writing the article with Taryn Plumb and creating the final content with Dave Gushee, was a true pleasure. Everyone was very professional, enthusiastic and supportive, and their creative approach and positive attitude clearly came through in the final product.
– Kevin C. Rakowski, Senior Vice President, Deputy General Counsel, Compliance with Radian Group Inc.
I was honored to be the subject of an article. I enjoy reading Vanguard articles and seeing how other attorneys got to their positions and see their jobs. It's also interesting to see how different law firms partner with the subjects of the articles.
– Henry Marquard, in-house counsel, Stanley Consultants Inc.

LATEST EDITION

Summer I 2022

READ NOW

GET VANGUARD IN YOUR INBOX.

  • * We’ll never share your email or info with anyone.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.