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Organisations given chance to win funding for data protection research by UK watchdog

Universities, businesses and other "organisations with a genuine commitment to public benefit outcomes" have been encouraged to apply for grants to support their data protection and privacy research projects.08 Jun 2017

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has announced that it will provide between £20,000 and £100,000 to organisations that meet its criteria for funding under the new grants programme.

The ICO said there its grants programme has five objectives, which including supporting and encouraging research and "privacy enhancing solutions in significant areas of data protection risk", in projects "that will make a real different to the UK public", as well as raising data controllers' awareness of "privacy enhancing solutions".

The ICO said it also hopes that the scheme will "improve understanding of how individuals view privacy issues, interactions with new technologies and promote better public awareness, promote uptake and application of research results by relevant stakeholders, including policy makers, [and] develop existing privacy research capacity in academic and not-for-profit sectors".

The watchdog said data protection and privacy research projects must meet at least one of the five strategic goals it set out in its recently published information rights strategic plan (14-page / 209KB PDF) to be eligible for funding.

Those goals include increasing the public’s trust and confidence in how data is used and made available; improving standards of information rights practice through clear, inspiring and targeted engagement and influence; maintaining and developing influence within the global information rights regulatory community; staying relevant and providing excellent public service and keep abreast of evolving technology; and enforcing information laws.

"This year we are seeking privacy by design or accountability solutions which focus on key privacy challenges or the privacy implications of new technologies such as big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning, social scoring and blockchain," the ICO said. "We are also interested in projects that address the privacy challenges related to children and the internet."

Applications for funding will need to demonstrate the projects "have practical application and provide real world solutions that are of clear public benefit to the UK," the ICO said.

Information commissioner Elizabeth Denham said: "Current research shows that 75% of the public don’t trust the way that their personal data is used. I want to see that number reduce and that requires evidence of what is causing the problem and well considered ideas for how to address it."

The deadline for submitting applications to the ICO's grants programme is 5pm on 28 July. The watchdog said it intends to host a webinar on 15 June to explain more about the initiative.