ICO: data anonymisation code to protect privacy
23 November 2012
The Information Commissioner's Office has published a new set of anonymisation guidelines to help manage individual privacy risks and maintain transparency, it has emerged.
The code contains a privacy framework to help practitioners assess the risks of anonymisation and also examples of how successful anonymisation can be achieved.
Explanations of how personal data can be anonymised for medical research purposes, how individuals' information can be anonymised when responding to Freedom of Information (FoI) requests, and how customers' data can be anonymised to help market researchers analyse people's purchasing habits, will all be included.
The move follows the UK government's decision to put more anonymised data into the public domain, with the "open data agenda" allowing the publication of public sector performance to hold public bodies to account.
Information Commissioner Christopher Graham said the code of practice on managing data protection risks was aimed at providing a "framework for practitioners to use when considering whether to produce anonymised information".
The code was also aimed at bringing "greater consistency of approach" to show what the ICO expects of organisations using this data.
"Failure to anonymise personal data correctly can result in enforcement action from the ICO. However we recognise that anonymised data can have important benefits, increasing the transparency of government and aiding the UK's widely regarded research community," he said.
"We hope today's guidance helps practitioners to protect privacy and enable the use of data in exciting and innovative ways."
The ICO also announced the launch of a new UK Anonymisation Network (UKAN) - led by the University of Manchester, the University of Southampton, Office for National Statistics and the government's new Open Data Institute (ODI). This would help enable the "sharing of good practice" related to anonymisation, across the public and private sector.
The new network will include a website, a number of case studies, clinics and seminars, with the ICO funding £15,000 over the next two years to the initiative.