Information Commissioner urges charities to take part in data exercise

The ICO's Regulatory Sandbox has been developed as a safe space for charities and other bodies to put together innovative ways of dealing with personal data

The Information Commissioner’s Office has called on charities to take part in a new project to develop "innovative ways" of using personal data.

The ICO’s Regulatory Sandbox will be a "safe space" where charities and other organisations will be able to work alongside the ICO to create new personal data products and services without fear of regulatory backlash if they inadvertently break the rules, according to a discussion paper released by the regulator today.

The ICO issued a call for views on the idea in November, which said that as part of the sandbox project the ICO would offer organisations support and advice to develop their work, while making sure it was compliant with data-protection legislation.

Today the ICO announced plans to launch a beta phase, which organisations will be able to apply to take part in from the end of April.

"The ICO sandbox beta phase is a fully functioning test of the ICO’s sandbox over a defined period," the discussion paper says.

"If the beta phase is successful, the sandbox will then form a part of our regulatory toolkit."

The regulator will aim to involve about 10 organisations of different types and sizes from across the private, public and third sectors.

In a video promoting the beta phase, Chris Taylor, ICO head of assurance, said: "We’re particularly interested to hear from charities and the third sector.

"We know that you’re doing lots of exciting things with personal data, whether that’s around improving membership services, targeting beneficiaries or looking at fundraising campaigns.

"We’re keen to work with you to ensure that’s done in a safe and compliant way."

The regulator said it would particularly welcome applications for products or services that address specific data-protection and innovation challenges, including the use of personal data in emerging technology such as biometrics, the internet of things, wearable tech, cloud-based products and artificial intelligence.

It also includes projects looking at complex data sharing, building good user experience and public trust through transparency, the perceived limitations of the General Data Protection Regulation and the provisions of the Data Protection Act 2018 on automated decision making, and using existing data for new purposes, the paper says.

It adds that the ICO is open to other innovative ideas that are in the public interest.

"We will be clear when accepting organisations into the sandbox that, provided they are taking appropriate steps to try to comply, any accidental breach of data-protection legislation during the sandbox process will not lead immediately to enforcement action," the paper says.

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