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ICO Grants Programme launches second round of funding

The ICO is inviting a second round of applications for funding to promote and support independent, innovative research and solutions focused on privacy and data protection

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has announced a second funding from its Grants Programme launched in June 2017, which is aimed at supporting independent research into new, practical tools to tackle privacy challenges facing UK citizens.

Like the inaugural scheme in which the ICO made four awards, there will be a number of grants awarded for a minimum £20,000 and a maximum £100,000.

Proposals do not need to be technology based but must have a practical application and provide real world solutions that are of clear public benefit to the people of the UK, the ICO said.

The relevance of the funding programme was demonstrated when one of the projects supported by the ICO was specifically welcomed by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy, Joe Cannataci, in his End of Mission Statement, following his official visit to the UK in June.

Information commissioner Elizabeth Denham aid information rights are evolving all the time. “It is fair to say that a lot has happened since we launched the inaugural grants programme a year ago.

“The introduction of the GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018, along with high-profile cases and incidents, have meant privacy issues and concerns about how people’s personal information is used have probably never been more prominent,” she said.

Speaking in March at a DataIQ event in London, where she was named most influential person in data-driven business for 2018, Denham said the grants programme is one of the ways the ICO can recognise leaders in the data field.

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The ICO is inviting bids for grants to support independent research and projects that meet one or more of the six strategic goals set out in the ICO’s Information Rights Strategic Plan, which is aimed at increasing the public’s trust and confidence in how their personal data is used.

In particular, the ICO is seeking privacy by design or accountability solutions which focus on key privacy challenges, providing clear public benefit with outputs that are open source and re-usable.

Areas of interest for the ICO include artificial intelligence, big data and machine learning, particularly solutions that would enable effective transparency to individuals or verifiable audit trails.

Other areas of interest include biometrics and facial recognition, data protection safeguards, age verification, parental consent verification, data trusts and the safe sharing of personal information.

In terms of good practice, the ICO is looking for GDPR compliance and self-assessment tools for small and medium-sized organisations.

The ICO also expressed interest in privacy-enhancing applications of blockchain and distributed ledger technology that enhance privacy and accountability, and minimise the use of personal data – as well as tools that provide revocable consent and transparency.

Further information about the Grants Programme, including eligibility, funding and outcome expectations, is available on a dedicated page on the ICO website. The ICO will also present a webinar for potential applicants, discussing the programme in more detail on Tuesday 17 July.

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