The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has told digital developers they need to consider privacy at an early stage to maintain public trust and confidence when implementing new technologies.
It has published a Tech Horizons Report on technologies emerging over the next two to five years, with a warning that the significant benefits they offer could be lost if people feel organisations are misusing their data.
It includes an analysis of four key technologies – consumer healthtech, next generation internet of things (IoT), immersive technology and decentralised finance – with an indication that it is also looking at neurotechnology.
While acknowledging the potential benefits, it has also outlined four main challenges to preserving public trust.
One is that a growing set of technologies are collecting personal information in ways that may not be transparent to people and leads them to feel they have no meaningful control. Second is that complexity of some data ecosystems may make it difficult for people to understand how organisations are processing information and hold them to account.
Third is that some technologies are collecting more information than they need for their primary purpose; and fourth that many are collecting information about sensitive personal characteristics that may require additional safeguards.
There are also challenges around the accuracy of inferences made by some devices and the security of information processed by others.
Seek for solutions
The report urges organisations to work on identifying solutions that maximise privacy protections without compromising effectiveness, and points to approaches that could make this possible. These include the use of ‘zero knowledge proofs’ to prove the existence of personal information while keeping it off-chain.
The ICO says its next steps will include developing guidance, inviting organisations to work in its regulatory sandbox and monitoring market developments.
Its director of technology, innovation and enterprise Stephen Almond said: “New technologies are emerging that could make our lives easier, safer, more comfortable, efficient and fun – but for them to be successful, we must empower people to safely share their information now and in the future.
“Crucially, what we’ve seen through our research is that while the technologies and the opportunities organisations offering are new, the ways to encourage public trust are not. Being transparent about how you’re using people’s data and giving people control over what data is used will be as important in new technologies as they are today.”