Mark SayManaging EditorTuesday 21 November 2017

ICO backs development of medical data sharing tool

Project led by Teeside University is one of four on privacy and data protection to win financial support

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has thrown its weight behind a project to develop a tool for the secure sharing of medical information.

Stephoscope on keyboardIt has made £82,500 available for the 12-month research initiative as part of a wider programme of financial backing for projects aimed at dealing with issues around privacy and data protection.

The money will be directed at work to begin next April and led by Teeside University, in line with the Connected Health Cities project. This involves rolling out the Great North Care Record in the North-East and Cumbria, and the project will be aimed at enabling healthcare professionals to share information securely and to support research.

Jim Longstaff, reader in Computing at Teesside University, said: “The aim of this research is to build and evaluate a prototype privacy tool and user interface for eliciting people's consent to provide access to their health and social records.

“The privacy tool will provide appropriate information, options and reassurances to patients and health care professionals. Research results in these areas will be widely applicable to health and social care systems.”

Hundred plus applicants

It is one of four projects sifted from 117 applications for support since the ICO launched the programme in June. One will be led by Imperial College London to develop an online tool, already named Harpo, for the public and organisations to evaluate the risk of pseudonymised personal data being re-identified.

It will make use of a new machine learning algorithm and aim at making data collection safer and more transparent. The project is scheduled to deliver the tools as a free resource by autumn 2018.

Another project, led by the London School of Economics, will examine how information rights and privacy apply to children. The work will be aimed at developing an online toolkit to increase their awareness and ability to act.

The fourth will involve civil society organisation the Open Rights Group working with design studio IF on a digital tool to help people enforce their data protection rights, especially in dealing with the insurance and banking sectors.

Steve Wood, ICO deputy commissioner (policy), said: “We’re delighted to be supporting these four projects as part of our grants programme. They all support innovative solutions to key privacy challenges which can make a real difference to the public, and we look forward to seeing the results.”

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