The ICO releases guidance on privacy enhancing technologies

The ICO releases guidance on privacy enhancing technologies

In an effort to enhance standards on data privacy and security, the UK’s data protection regulator, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued recommendations on how organisations should integrate privacy enhancing technologies (PETs) into their systems and applications to share personal data lawfully, securely and anonymously.

PETs are a collection of tools and techniques that uphold privacy throughout the entire lifecycle of data, from its collection and storage to sharing and analysis. These methods employ various mechanisms such as encryption, anonymisation, pseudonymisation, access controls, and data minimisation techniques to achieve this objective. Such technologies are currently used in higher risk sectors, such as law enforcement or the health sector, but the ICO is encouraging their use more widely across industry. In this way, the ICO hopes that PETs can help organisations to unlock the value of their data in a lawful and privacy enhancing way.

To facilitate the adoption of PETs, the ICO has launched new guidance aimed at data protection officers and professionals who work with extensive personal data sets. The guidance clarifies the various types of PETs, including homomorphic encryption, secure multiparty computation, and zero knowledge proofs. It also highlights the difference between PETs, its applications, standards that are available, known weaknesses and how it supports data protection compliance noting that a combination of techniques may be required to provide protection at all various stages of the data processing lifecycle.

During the roundtable meeting with data protection and privacy authorities from G7 nations that took place last week in Tokyo, it is no doubt that this recently issued PETs guidance would have served as a key topic of discussion for the Commissioner. 

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