Letter: Technology holds key to useful and private data

The UK’s move to loosen some of the rules around GDPR post-Brexit is the latest example of governments trying to find an impossible balance between protecting citizen privacy and leveraging data for the public good (“UK treads fine line with GDPR changes”, #techFT, FT.com, June 17).

How personal data is held and used has been widely debated, and for good reason. Stories of data leaks and identity theft are common, and vulnerable people are at high risk of being targeted by scammers. The unfortunate side-effect of locking down our data is that those same vulnerable people lose out when governments are unable to share information and better target the resources they have.

But the technology already exists to eliminate this difficult balancing act once and for all. Through the emergence of privacy-enhancing technology (PET), we can share information about individuals that transform our understanding of communities without actually sharing their records. Privacy-enhancing technology is the key to governments having their cake and eating it too when preserving privacy and also creating the analytics needed to transform societies for the better.

While this move to introduce the Data Reform Bill does work to facilitate the sharing of data in a limited number of settings, loosening protections carries significant political baggage and puts the UK government on yet another collision course with the EU on data adequacy.

Chris Ford
London EC2, UK

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