Companies can now develop innovative products and services that use personal data while working alongside specialist staff from The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to help ensure they comply with data protection rules.
The Sandbox service aims to let products in development avoid enforcement action (though live data use has to be compliant) and, where feasible, increase public reassurance that innovative products and services are not in breach of data protection legislation.
The beta phase of the Sandbox is now open to applications from organisations that use personal data to develop innovative products and services that have a demonstrable public benefit. Public benefit will be determined in terms of both breadth – the amount of people benefitting – and depth – the extent to which they benefit. Organisations will exit the Sandbox by September 2020 when the beta phase is planned to finish.
The beta phase comprises:
Application period: 29 March - 24 May (submission deadline)
Selection period: May - July
Planning and operational period: July 2019 - September 2020
On its website, benefits cited for organisations participating in the process are:
access to ICO expertise and support;
enhanced confidence in the compliance of your finished product or service;
a better understanding of the data protection frameworks and how these effect your business;
being seen as accountable and proactive in your approach to data protection, by customers, peer-organisations and the ICO, leading to increased consumer trust in your organisation;
supporting the UK in its ambition to be an innovative economy; and
contributing to the development of products and services that can be shown to be of value to the public.
The ICO says it will be offering a free, professional, fully functioning service for approximately 10 organisations, of varying types and sizes, across different sectors. Applications will be considered from start-ups, SMEs and large organisations, across private, public and voluntary sectors.
It will not be offering platform infrastructure via any hosted environment, financial support, nor procurement of data, nor will it liaise with other regulators on participants behalf, but it will cover its own costs including staff.
In a press statement the ICO says that it: "...expects that many of the products that will come into the Sandbox will be at the cutting edge of innovation and may be operating in particularly challenging areas of data protection where there is genuine uncertainty about what compliance looks like. As a result, Sandbox participants may become use-cases from which the ICO anticipates change and develops public guidance and resources on compliance."
In the same document, Simon McDougall, executive director for technology and innovation at the ICO, said: "Thousands of organisations are working on projects using personal data to transform the way we live and work. We want to support this innovation whilst helping ensure that the products and services under development are compliant and deliver benefits to the public.
"Our Sandbox will provide the environment that organisations need to test new concepts and technologies. The lessons we learn together may identify more fundamental questions with broader implications for data protection, and could ultimately inform the development of new guidance or codes of conduct in particular sectors to pave the way for further innovation."