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Monday 5th December 2016


Data confidentiality and privacy is an increasingly challenging topics in the new data environment in which there are growing numbers of large databases describing people, their characteristics and their behaviours. These types of databases are being routinely used for analysis and for day-today operations of organisations in every sector. Indeed, public policy decisions and much scientific research hinge on accurate and comprehensive data about people. Similarly there is an increasing reliance by commercial organisations, basing their success on data describing how people behave.

There is a growing realisation of the opportunities afforded by linking different databases for further analysis and insight. However, a tension exists between sharing the information in such databases so that public and private benefit can be gained, whilst protecting the confidentiality of the shared data. This tension can be partly addressed by the anonymisation process which aims to reduce to an acceptable low level the risk of re-identification whilst preserving the analytic value of the data. However, there are still many issues and challenges to be overcome in order to do this effectively.

This event was part of a week-long workshop on New Developments in Data Privacy, linked to the Isaac Newton Institute (INI) research programme on Data Linkage and Anonymisation. It highlighted new approaches to anonymisation and brought together leading experts as well as data users and ‘data holders’ with the aim of disseminating state-of-the-art techniques and approaches from the INI research programme.


Aims and Objectives

The overall aim of this workshop on anonymisation was to disseminate the latest advances in the area. There was a significant number of leading scientists from the INI programme present but talks were explicitly targeted at a broad audience of users who deal with personal data and were looking for ways to share those data.

The programme of talks highlighted developments in state-of-the-art approaches and techniques including:

  • The Anonymisation Decision making Framework
  • New developments in privacy models
  • Advances in synthetic data production
  • Penetration testing
  • Designing anonymised data with detailed geography

It also featured a session on end user perspectives which included short talks from data holders in the transport, telecoms, finance, energy and health areas. The facilitated panel session was a forum for questions and discussion around the challenges in the context of various applications with perspectives from both researchers and end-users. It will also afford an opportunity to identify and set the agenda for further common challenges for future research and collaboration. This event was of interest to data practitioners from all sectors including:

  • Government, policy makers, regulatory authorities and statisticians
  • Commercial organisations in the financial, retail, telecommunications, transport, utilities and other data intensive environments
  • App developers interested in developing anonymisation tools
  • Data Science led start ups
  • Biomedical and health researchers
  • Social and economic researchers

Registration and Venue

The workshop took place at the Isaac Newton Institute, Cambridge. Please see the link for directions to the venue.