ICO begins consultation on the release of anonymous data

By Sooraj Shah
31 May 2012 View Comments
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The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has begun a public consultation on a code of practice governing anonymous data, which aims to protect a person's or organisation's privacy rights when aggregated data is released.

The consultation will be particularly relevant to public sector organisations that want to release anonymised data under the government's open data agenda.

Further reading

The Anonymisation Code of Practice will provide guidance on how information can be successfully anonymised and how to assess the risks of identification.

The ICO also launched a tendering process to establish what it calls a network of experts to share best practice on the release of data in an anonymised form. It is looking for interested organisations to bid for a funding allocation of £15,000 to create, develop and support the professional network.

In a statement, information commissioner Christopher Graham said the public would be positive about the open data agenda, but would also want their privacy rights respected.

"The UK is putting more and more valuable data into the public domain. The open data agenda will see this process continue and I welcome the power this information gives the average UK citizen to understand how the public sector operates and hold organisations to account," said Graham.

"However, while the public want to see openness, they want to see their privacy rights respected too. The risks of anonymisation can sometimes be underestimated and in other cases overstated; organisations need to be aware of what those risks are and take a structured approach to assessing them, particularly in light of other personal information in the public domain," he added.

Graham urged organisations and individuals to take part in the consultation to achieve a balance between the protection of individuals' privacy and the benefits of making information publicly available.

"Anonymisation can allow organisations to publish or share useful information derived from personal data, while protecting the privacy rights of individuals. Our code will aim to provide clear, practical advice on how data can be anonymised. We are now inviting individuals and organisations to submit their views on how this can best be achieved," he said.

The consultation will be open for the next 12 weeks and will close on 23 August. A final version of the code of practice is due for publication in September.

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