Data Driven Futures

ICO opens data protection sandbox

Written by Peter Walker

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has opened the beta phase of its regulatory sandbox, designed to support organisations using personal data to develop innovative products and services.

Participants will be able to work with the ICO’s specialist staff to help ensure they comply with data protection rules, providing some comfort from enforcement action and, where feasible, increased public reassurance that products and services are not in breach of data protection legislation.

The beta phase offers a free service for approximately 10 organisations, of varying types and sizes, across a number of sectors. The ICO stated that it will consider applications from startups, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and large organisations, across private, public and voluntary sectors.

It will assess applications on the basis of whether the product or service being developed is innovative and can provide a potential demonstrable benefit to the public.

In November, analysis of an earlier call for views on the sandbox was published, identifying areas where data protection might be perceived as a barrier to innovation, to the general scope and some more detailed questions about what mechanisms and operational approaches we should take.

Nearly 70 organisations responded, including companies, trade associations, public authorities and third sector bodies.

Simon McDougall, executive director for technology and innovation at the ICO, said: “Our sandbox will provide the environment that organisations need to test new concepts and technologies.

“The lessons we learn together may identify more fundamental questions with broader implications for data protection, and could ultimately inform the development of new guidance or codes of conduct in particular sectors to pave the way for further innovation.”

Successful organisations will receive an on-site visit from a dedicated sandbox team member, who will then work with them to devise and implement a bespoke plan. Organisations will exit the sandbox by September 2020 when the beta phase is planned to finish.

Applications must be submitted no later than 24 May.