The Cabinet Office is asking the public to comment on a new independent report it commissioned to examine the impact of its transparency agenda on privacy.
The review, led by Dr Kieron O’Hara, a senior research fellow in electronics and computer science at the University of Southampton, was commissioned to inform the government how to maintain privacy while releasing information as part of its open data and transparency agenda.
One of his conclusions was that privacy needs to be embedded into any transparency programme, to avoid data breaches and to maintain public confidence.
“Privacy and transparency are compatible, as long as the former is carefully protected and considered at every stage,” said Dr O’Hara, who is also an expert in privacy, trust and web science.
The review follows last month’s launch of the ‘Making Open Data Real’ consultation, which asked the public to give ideas on how the government can become more open.
The government believes that open data can help improve how government and society work, by establishing individual responsibility and local accountability for public service professionals.
In the releases of public data so far, Dr O’Hara said that most will not raise privacy concerns, but that some releases will “as we move toward a more demand-driven scheme”.
He added that sensitive data should continue to be anonymised, and suggested that further studies should be made into the level of risk related to deanonymisation.
Dr O’Hara made 14 recommendations in his review, which include creating a data asset register, moving towards a demand-driven programme, developing a procedure for pre-release screening of data to ensure respect for privacy and using data.gov.uk to raise awareness of data protection responsibilities.
In response to the review, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said: “We are pioneers in the field of transparency. The public can now see how government spends its money, track crime in their area street-by-street and hold minister to account.
“The government is committed to ensuring that ongoing releases of data are done in a way that provides maximum transparency of data, while applying the appropriate data protection safeguards.”