Meet the ten participants picked to take part in the ICO’s first data protection sandbox

The British Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the UK’s independent regulator for data protection, has launched a new service to help companies and organizations innovate for the common good using public data. Now it has chosen its first cohort to enjoy the sandbox.

Ten organizations were handpicked among 64 applications to take part in the initial service. These ten will benefit from the ICO’s expertise and advice on data protection by design. This will help mitigate any risks as they test their innovations, while ensuring that appropriate protections and safeguards are in place.

FutureFlow, a RegTech startup designing a monitoring the flow of funds in the financial system, was the first name on the list. Its platform is designed to prevent electronic financial crimes by enabling multiple financial institutions, regulators and agencies to leverage each other’s intelligence. It does this without relying on using data that could identify individuals. The benefit is that it comes with both lower risks of false positives as well as reduced compliance burden.

The second project will be run by the Greater London Authority. As part of the Big Smoke mayor’s ambition to reduce crime, his Violence Reduction Unit is looking into how public health and social services can be managed to prevent and reduce crime, with a focus on early intervention.

Heathrow Airport has launched a programme to streamline travellers’ journeys by using biometrics. In other words, it would use facial recognition technology at check-in, self-service bag drops and boarding gates. This would remove the need of having to constantly produce a documentation proving passengers’ identities.

The fourth project is run by Jisc, the Bristol-based provider of digital solutions for UK education and research. By participating in the ICO’s sandbox, the company is looking into developing a code of practice with universities and colleges wishing to investigate the use of student activity data to improve their provision of student support services. This will help them protect both privacy and wellbeing.

The fifth participant is the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government. The ministry is working closely with Blackpool Council and the Department of Work and Pensions in a project seeking to match personal information controlled by multiple parties in order to create a dataset that will allow the ministry to better understand Blackpool’s private rented sector and the ones who live there.

NHS Digital is running the sixth project, which is working on the design and development of a central mechanism for collecting and managing patient consents for the sharing of their healthcare data for secondary use purposes, including medical research and regulated clinical trials.

Also operating within the health and wellness sector, Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK, is looking into how voice technology can boost healthcare services. Its goal is to make patient care easier as well as dealing with any data privacy challenges around voice tech.

Onfido is a British scaleup launched in 2012. It is developing document ID verification and facial biometrics technology. The company will research how to identify and mitigate algorithmic bias in machine learning models used for remote biometric-based identity verification.

Tonic Analytics, the Southampton predictive analytics company, was picked in 2017 to run the Galileo Programme. The project, which is jointly sponsored by the National Police Chiefs’ Council and Highways England, has the goal to reduce the number of deaths and accidents on British roads.

The tenth and final project is run by TrustElevate, which provides secure authentication and authorization for kids under the age of 16. TrustElevate is providing verified parental consent and age checking of children. It is working to enable companies to comply with regulatory requirements and to make the Internet a safer environment for children, facilitating a more robust digital ecosystem and economy.

The next stage of the process will be to agree and develop detailed plans for each sandbox participant before work starts on testing their products and services. It is envisaged all participants will have exited the sandbox by September 2020.

Commenting on the new sandbox project, Elizabeth Denham, the information commissioner, said, “The ICO supports innovation in technology and exciting new uses of data, while ensuring that people’s privacy and legal rights are protected. We have always said that privacy and innovation are not mutually exclusive and there doesn’t need to be an either-or choice between the two.

“The sandbox will help companies and public bodies deliver new products and services of real benefit to the public, with assurance that they have tackled built-in data protection at the outset. Engaging with businesses and innovators in the sandbox is also a valuable exercise in horizon scanning – the ICO can identify new developments in technology and innovation and the potential opportunities and challenges they may provide.”

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