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Rohan Banerjee

Special projects writer, New Statesman

ICO names first members of regulatory sandbox

The use of biometric and data-based technologies in order to speed up airport passenger journeys, criminal investigations and healthcare treatments are among the first projects to be approved in the Information Commissioner’s Office regulatory sandbox.

The sandbox, a new ICO initiative which will support organisations that are developing innovative products and services leveraging personal data with a clear public benefit, is due to launch in September 2020.

Companies involved in the sandbox programme will be able to draw on ICO expertise as they test and roll out their products in a controlled environment, removing some of the regulatory pain points along the way.

From 64 applications received by the ICO, the United Kingdom’s data privacy and protection watchdog, ten have been selected to progress, including facial recognition software at Heathrow Airport and NHS Digital’s data-sharing hubs to inform medical research and clinical trials.

Other products and services still being considered include innovations in housing, road traffic management, student welfare and tackling bias in artificial intelligence.

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said in a statement: “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 and there doesn’t need to be an either-or choice between the two.”

She added: “The sandbox will help companies and public bodies deliver new products and services of real benefit to the public, with assurance that they have tackled built-in data protection at the outset.”

The ten successful applicants are:

  • FutureFlow
  • Greater London Authority
  • Heathrow Airport Ltd
  • Jisc
  • The Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government
  • NHS Digital
  • Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK Limited
  • Onfido
  • Tonic Analytics
  • TrustElevate