ICO Empower people to foster trust in tomorrow’s technological advancements

The ICO is encouraging developers to consider privacy at an early stage when implementing new technologies to maintain public trust and confidence.

Our Tech Horizons Report looks at technologies emerging over the next two to five years and warns that the significant benefits they offer could be lost if people feel companies are misusing their data.

The report, which follows analysis of key technologies expected to impact society in the future, found businesses must consider transparency, what control people have over their data, and how much data is gathered to ensure their services are data compliant and developed with consumer privacy at the forefront.

Director of Technology, Innovation and Enterprise, Stephen Almond said:

“As a regulator, part of our role is to foster trust in how organisations process personal information, whilst championing growth and innovation.

“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.”

The report is broken down into four categories:

  • Consumer HealthTech: wearable devices and software applications that help people assess their health and wellbeing. Research suggests that these devices could monitor your blood sugar, alcohol and hydration levels and influence people’s decisions. For example, people could maximise athletic performance by monitoring their hydration levels, based on data collected by smart fabrics wearables such as smart clothing or a patch.
  • Next-generation Internet of Things (IoT): physical objects that connect and share information, with the ability to sense, respond to or interact with the external environment. These technologies could monitor and store personal habits, combined with external factors like the weather and your energy consumption and provide personalised recommendations, like automatically ordering food based on cost and user habits.
  • Immersive technology: augmented and virtual reality hardware that creates immersive software experiences for users. In the future, these immersive technologies have the potential to overcome geographical barriers as well as improving educational experiences. For example, VR headsets will allow people to sit front row at live virtual events – this is achieved through devices that may be gathering personal data including monitoring eye movements, pupil size, heart rate, voice, hand gestures and spatial information.
  • Decentralised finance: software that employs blockchain technology to support peer-to-peer financial transactions. These technologies aim to remove centralised intermediaries from transactions and financial products and services. This enables consumers to have continued access to banking apps and services improving the ease of moving, lending and borrowing money.

Our work in this area continues via similar reports already published including our Biometrics insights and foresights reports, and further work planned for later this year.

We’re also encouraging businesses who need support on projects related to the technologies in our report to get in touch to be part of our Sandbox scheme. We will use these lessons learned to further develop our views and guidance on emerging technologies.

The ICO also continues to offer our insight to Parliament, most recently at the DCMS Select Committee, looking at the future of connected technology, safeguards for children, automated decision making and data security.

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