August 25, 2022
October 5, 2022
Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PETs) help solve the trust problem in data collaboration. But how can governments learn to trust PETs?
Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PETs) are commanding the attention of the international data innovation community, promising a step-change in what is possible in data collaboration by mathematically solving longstanding data collaboration challenges. They are becoming increasingly mainstream in the AdTech and mobile hardware industries, drawing interest from prominent institutions such as the Royal Society, the ICO, and the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI).
Yet, government has been slow to recognise the value of PETs.
Earlier this month, PETs use cases for government entered the spotlight with the announcement of the UK-US Privacy Enhancing Technologies Prize Challenge, which calls for PETs innovators to develop solutions for financial crime detection and disease surveillance.
As PETs providers prepare their solutions and the visibility of government PETs use cases increases, this blog shares PUBLIC’s views on practical steps to take government PETs solutions from the lab to the real world. Our insights are based on PUBLIC’s extensive research on PETs for the public sector and our engagement with numerous PETs providers, including Bitfount, Gradient0, and Duality.
The first step in the PETs journey is developing a clear understanding of why a problem requires collaborating with sensitive data. To make the business case for a new class of technologies, such as PETs, public sector data owners must show not only how the technology makes an incremental improvement – but how it can unlock significant value by opening up a new way of using data entirely.
Based on PUBLIC’s work delivering data strategy and transformation to government clients, we have identified four key use cases:
Each technology has different strengths and limitations, and should be seen as an important layer of your organisation’s evolving “privacy stack” – a set of foundational capabilities for managing data privacy risk.
Once a high-level use case is identified, data owners should start with a rapid Discovery to baseline their own data capabilities, privacy posture, and benefits of PETs solutions. This can help simplify future PETs procurement, enable data owners to be smarter customers and ease supplier onboarding.
A Discovery should answer several strategic questions, while educating and exciting stakeholders about the potential of PETs solutions in the process. Key strategic questions include:
A Discovery should also map current and potential future risks: determining severity and likelihood to these is key to justifying why PETs, rather than more commonplace solutions, are needed to get the job done:
Finally, questions examining data infrastructure and datasets can help organisations to diagnose which PETs techniques are most appropriate for the problem:
At PUBLIC, we have found that the biggest challenge facing public sector data transformation projects is aligning diverse stakeholders on an acceptable risk-benefit trade-off. As a result, the Discovery process should also convene and empower a centralised team with remit over data governance and security to own the project going forward.
In a nascent technology segment such as PETs, it can be difficult to tell which suppliers have the credentials to deliver. There are a few rules of thumb to be a smart, critical customer of PETs solutions.
Similarly, it is worth being aware of a few red flags when evaluating PETs suppliers.
The Government Digital Service (GDS) standard requires new digital services to solve a “whole problem” for users: PUBLIC believes this principle applies to internal data analytics use cases as well. This means that the new user journey enabled by a PETs solution must alleviate a real pain point and make intuitive sense to the user, regardless of the technology that is powering it. PUBLIC helps public sector organisations both build the right solution and build the solution right to ensure it actually ‘sticks’ beyond implementation.
Unleashing the power of PETs and unlocking new data collaboration opportunities doesn’t require a leap of faith. PUBLIC can help your organisation on its journey to build trust in this powerful new set of technologies. Get in touch with PUBLIC’s Privacy, Security, and Online Safety (PSOS) and Data Services’ teams to find out how to get a Discovery for your data collaboration project off the ground. Get in touch with Daniel Fitter to find out more.
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