Protect and serve

Alumnus Hugo Teufel is safeguarding your privacy in today’s global information society.

By Tom Wilmes

Publish Date: April 18, 2016

Photo by Mark Woolcott


Hugo Teufel III (B.A. economics ’85) has enjoyed a distinguished career since graduating from MSU Denver, and the former chief privacy officer for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security credits several faculty with helping him onto the right path.

“The chairs of Metro’s economics department were Ralph Byrns and Gerald Stone, who, at the time, had the nation’s No. 1 selling macroeconomics textbook,” said Teufel. “They got me focused on, ‘What do you want to do when you grow up?’ Professor Gudrun Clay convinced me that I should minor in German. I never expected to use that language at work, but I did, years later.”

Motivated by a broad ambition to work in government, Teufel moved to Washington, D.C., after graduation and worked in the
State Department’s Procurement Division. He was the national coordinator for law students during the Bush/Quayle administration, and earned a law degree from Washington College of Law at American University in 1990.

Teufel clerked for the U.S. Claims Court before moving back to Denver and working at a national firm in contract law. He was also active with the Colorado Republican Party and the Federalist Society, and worked for Gale Norton when she was Colorado’s Attorney General.

He joined the Interior Department when Norton was appointed Secretary of the Interior by President Bush, and a few years later, Teufel was tapped to become the second-ever chief privacy officer for the newly created U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

In that capacity, Teufel and his team crafted privacy policy, and oversaw the flow and use of personal data through domestic and international channels. He helped write the rules about personal data and data protection just as the issue was coming to the fore. He worked closely with European regulators, legislators and government officials on the issue of transatlantic flows of personal data for security service use.

“We live in a global information society and information is becoming the dominant economy,” said Teufel. “Personal data and information are flowing all around the world, and there is tension between the flow of information and the varying legal requirements that countries place on that information. What I found interesting on the policy side, especially within the DHS, is how to carry out the mission of the agency in a way that is privacy-sensitive. How do you make it work? That was a tremendous amount of personal satisfaction.”

Teufel issued a number of privacy policy memoranda during his tenure, including an influential recommendation to administratively extend the protections of the U.S. Privacy Act of 1974 to non-U.S. citizens.

“If you look at the President’s Review Commission Report on the National Security Agency after the Snowden affair, one of the commission’s recommendations to the president is that all executive branch agencies follow the lead of DHS on that policy. That was the policy that we put out when I was at DHS … and that’s the road that they’re going down,” he said.

Teufel has held several positions since his tenure with DHS, including as a privacy consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers, working with the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, continuing to serve as a judge advocate with the Army National Guard and, currently, serving as global privacy counsel for defense contractor Raytheon. With each of these experiences, Teufel has furthered his goal of serving his country by implementing and upholding sound policy decisions.

“Even with Raytheon, our customer often is the U.S. government – it’s another way to support the mission of defending the country,” he said. “It’s about doing good for the American people.”