Guard dog for data? ICO issues PETs guidance

Information Commissioner’s Office says privacy-enhancing technology should be employed by all those using large personal data sets in local government. 

Personal data is at the heart of a lot of what local authorities do. Apps and services using this data can offer benefits to residents quickly and efficiently, saving money overall. But recent news reports of serious breaches of such data had meant many organisations are reviewing what they do keep information safe, secure and anonymous. What they need is some kind of guard dog…

Photo by Ian Morton

Photo by Ian Morton

All right, not a dog as such. PETs are privacy-enhancing technologies, and regulator ICO has launched new guidance on using them to share anonymised personal information to detect and prevent financial crimes and related harms such as fraud, money laundering and cybercrimes. 

The guidance is aimed at data protection officers and everyone using large personal data sets in sectors such as in finance, healthcare, research, and central and local government. 

PETs not only help organisations comply with the requirements of data protection law. They also offer a secure environment, build data protection into the beginning of any project and minimise the amount of data collected and retained. 

John Edwards, UK Information Commissioner says: ‘If your organisation shares large volumes of data, particularly special category data, we recommend that over the next five years you start considering using PETs. 

‘PETs enable safe data sharing and allow organisations to make the best use of the personal data they hold, driving innovation. My office is committed to supporting UK businesses to develop and innovate with new technologies that respect people’s privacy and this guidance helps them to do that.’  

This week, Mr Edwards is at a G7 meeting in Tokyo to discuss work in data protection and privacy. G7 regulators will debate data free flow with trust, enforcement co-operation and other emerging technologies, including developments in – and the risks of – generative AI. 

Mr Edwards says: ‘Together with our G7 counterparts, we are focused on facilitating and driving international support for responsible and innovative adoption of PETs, by researching and addressing barriers to adoption with clear guidance and examples of best practice. 

‘We are also looking ahead at emerging technologies, such as the rapid development and deployment of generative AI technologies, to ensure organisations across the world are innovating in a way that respects people’s information and privacy.’ 

In related news, Ofcom has introduced stricter thresholds for reporting network and information systems incidents.


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