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ICO selects first innovation Sandbox participants

UK privacy watchdog has chosen the first firms to take part in its Sandbox programme aimed at developing innovative and beneficial products and services that are privacy compliant

The use of biometrics to speed up airport passenger journeys, innovations in crime prevention and technological advances in the health sector are among the first projects selected to take part in the ICO Sandbox business development programme.

The ICO Sandbox is a key initiative in delivering the organisation’s pledge to support business innovation and help ensure that developers of tech and digital services do not lose society’s trust

Other products and services to be tested for compliance with data protection laws in the programme’s beta phase will include innovations in housing, road traffic management, student welfare and tackling bias in artificial intelligence.

The ICO Sandbox is open to organisations that are developing innovative products and services using personal data with a clear public benefit.

Participants will be able to draw on the expertise and advice of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) on data protection by design and mitigating any risks as they test their innovations, while ensuring that appropriate protections and safeguards are in place.

Information commissioner Elizabeth Denham 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,” she said.

“The sandbox will help companies and public bodies to 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, said Denham. “The ICO can identify new developments in technology and innovation and the potential opportunities and challenges they may provide,” she added.

A total of 10 projects have been selected from the 64 applications received by the ICO for the first phase of the sandbox.

The next stage will be to agree and develop detailed plans for each sandbox participant before work starts on testing their products and services. All 10 participants are expected to have completed the sandbox programme by September 2020.

The ICO Sandbox beta phase participants are:

  • FutureFlow: A regtech startup designing a forensic analytics platform that monitors the flow of funds in the financial system. Its platform enables multiple financial institutions, regulators and agencies to capitalise on each other’s intelligence on electronic financial crime without heavy reliance on personally identifiable information (PII). This collaborative approach to tackling financial crime opens the prospect of higher detection rates with lower false positives, while reducing the burden of scrutiny on each individual and business consumer.
  • Greater London Authority: The GLA’s Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) is working to understand better how public health and social services can be managed to prevent and reduce crime, with a focus on early intervention. There is increasing interest from the VRU, the Mayor’s Office of Policing and Crime (MOPAC) and the GLA for health, social and crime data to be looked at in an integrated and collaborative way.
  • Heathrow Airport: The automation of the Passenger Journey Programme aims to streamline the passenger journey by using biometrics. Facial recognition technology would be used at check-in, self-service bag drops and boarding gates to create a seamless experience for passengers travelling through the airport. Current processes require passengers to present different forms of documentation, such as boarding cards and passports, at different points in their journey to prove their identity and show they are authorised to travel. By offering passengers the option of using facial recognition technology, they would have the choice to enjoy a frictionless journey through the airport.
  • Jisc: A not-for-profit company that supports post-16 and higher education and research by providing relevant and useful advice, digital resources and network and technology services, while researching and developing new technologies and ways of working. It is 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 to protect both privacy and wellbeing.
  • Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government: A partnership with Blackpool Council and the Department for Work and Pensions seeks to match personal information controlled by multiple parties in order to create a dataset to understand more about the private rented sector in Blackpool, who lives there, and how to help improve the quality of properties.
  • NHS Digital: 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.
  • Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK: Is exploring the use of voice technology within healthcare. Through its Voice Enabled Solutions project, Novartis is working with healthcare professionals to design systems to make patient care easier, and addressing the data privacy challenges posed by this emerging technology.
  • Onfido: A document ID verification and facial biometrics technology firm researching how to identify and mitigate algorithmic bias in machine learning models used for remote biometric-based identity verification.
  • Tonic Analytics: The Galileo Programme was launched in 2017 and is jointly sponsored by the National Police Chiefs’ Council and Highways England. Galileo’s primary focus is on the ethical use of innovative data analytics technology to improve road safety while also preventing and detecting crime.
  • TrustElevate: A secure authentication and authorisation provider for under-16s 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.

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