Privacy, secrecy, transparency: what does it mean for evidence based policy?

8 April 2016


Reported by Dr Clare Moran, CSaP Policy Fellowships Coordinator.

What is preventing the use of personal data for evidence based policy? Drawing on rapidly evolving commercial best practice, what practical steps can be taken to overcome these obstacles? How can data science support policy?

These issues and more were considered in CSaP's monthly Policy Fellows meeting, hosted by Policy Fellow John Taysom.

CSaP Fellows from a wide range of organisations shared their perspectives on privacy and policy – including the UK Space Agency, Privitar Ltd, the Royal Society, Department of Health, University Alliance, Financial Conduct Authority, Food Standards Agency, Commonwealth Secretariat, Royal Academy of Engineering, and DFID.

A corresponding range of policy questions were raised, many either timely or urgent. The diversity of participants meant questions also considered international dimensions of Big Data and privacy, and guests from Sweden's KTH Royal Institute Of Technology illustrated similar challenges for industry and the public sector in other European countries. In particular, the implications for international development highlighted a unique set of issues that provided a welcome extension of our horizons, revealing how privacy discussions are often dominated by perspectives from the OECD countries.

We generated a wealth of topics that merit further attention, and gained a greater appreciation of privacy considerations in a multitude of scales and dimensions (including into space!). What emerged most clearly was the role of governance, alongside the technological and physical dimensions of privacy. The need for increased governance of data and privacy was agreed upon – whether through ‘digital citizenship’ education, international agreements, EU regulation, or setting high standards for data management in public agencies – and we look forward to continuing to explore this in future events.

This event was held at the Travellers Club and hosted by CSaP Policy Fellow John Taysom, an investor in technology companies, Board Member of the Web Science Trust, and Honorary Visiting Professor in the UCL Department of Computer Science.

(Banner image from Remko van Dokkum via Flickr)

John Taysom

Privitar Ltd