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UK and US to collaborate on privacy innovation contest

Joint UK-US innovation challenge contest centring on privacy-enhancing technology announced at Summit for Democracy in Washington DC

The UK and US governments plan to collaborate on a series of bilateral innovation prize challenges centring on privacy-enhancing technologies (PETs), harnessing data to protect privacy and intellectual property across borders and sectors.

Announced ahead of the Summit for Democracy, an event convened by the US government, the prize challenges will run over the coming 12 months in a so-called “Year of Action” that will accelerate work to overcome technical gaps and adoption challenges relating to PETs. The two governments believe that by bringing together top innovators from both countries, they can help shepherd PETs towards maturity.

Such technologies are already used to tackle a range of challenges in society, such as financial fraud, or tackling Covid-19, and the prize challenge is intended to build on the innovation that is already taking place across academia, industry and government.

The governments said the joint effort will reinforce the democratic principles enshrined in the New Atlantic Charter, signed earlier in 2021, and illustrate the commitment of both the UK and US to “working together to address critical transnational challenges”.

“Privacy-enhancing technologies can help our democracies to harness the power of data and AI to support our citizens and businesses – in a way that reinforces our shared values,” said UK culture secretary Nadine Dorries.

“The UK is striving to unlock the power of data across the economy. This prize challenge will build on the UK’s comprehensive National Data Strategy and help to raise the profile of these technologies on both sides of the Atlantic, laying the foundations for future collaboration.”

Eric Lander, scientific adviser to US president Joe Biden, and director of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, added: “Privacy-enhancing technologies are a critical component of the suite of democracy-affirming capabilities that can support our shared democratic values in the face of authoritarian exploitation of emerging technologies.

“It is imperative that we come together as democracies to develop approaches to unlock the economic, scientific and societal benefits of emerging technologies while protecting shared values such as privacy, accountability and transparency.”

The challenges will be developed by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the US National Science Foundation and the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) working alongside the UK’s Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI) and UK government experts, and will be launched in the spring of 2022.

Alongside the innovation challenges, Dorries and US commerce secretary Gina Raimondo have agreed, at a meeting in Washington DC, to further deepen the UK-US partnership on data, welcoming the progress made to realise the benefits of trusted cross-border data use and transfer, and committing to continue to work towards a UK-US data adequacy agreement.

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