From privacy to partnership

Press Release: “The NHS and other public sector institutions should lead the way in piloting Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PETs) that could help unlock ‘lifesaving’ data without compromising privacy, a report by the Royal Society has said.

From privacy to partnership, the report from the UK’s national academy of science, highlights cases where better use of data could have significant public benefits – from cancer research to reaching net-zero carbon emissions.

PETs encompass a suite of tools, such as a new generation of encryption and synthetic data, that could help deliver those benefits by reducing risks inherent to data use. However, their adoption to date has been limited.

The report, which profiles public sector readiness for PETs, calls for public bodies to champion these technologies in partnership with small-and-medium-sized enterprises, and for the UK government to establish a ‘national strategy for the responsible use of PETs’.

This should support data use for public good through establishment of common standards for PETs, as well as bursaries and prizes to incentivise and accelerate development of a marketplace for their application.

Read the full report.

This builds on the Royal Society’s 2019 Protecting privacy in practice (PDF). Following rapid developments in the field, the new report aims to establish principles and standards for the responsible use of PETs. This includes ensuring PETs are not limited to private sector organisations but are also used in cross-sector data partnerships for collaborative analysis to achieve wider public benefit.

 Healthcare is a key use case identified by the report. Medical technology advances, coupled with comprehensive electronic patient records in the NHS and a strong academic research base, mean “the UK is well positioned to deliver timely and impactful health research and its translation to offer more effective treatments, track and prevent public health risks, utilising health data to improve and save lives,” the report said…(More)”.