Public Services > Central Government

ICO produces anonymised data code of practice

David Bicknell Published 21 November 2012

Code aims to bring a consistency of approach for organisations using data


The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has published its Data Protection code of practice on managing the risks related to anonymisation. The code explains how to protect the privacy rights of individuals while providing rich sources of data.

The code comes at a time when the UK is putting more and more anonymised data into the public domain, with the government's open data agenda allowing us to find out more than ever about the performance of public services and holding public bodies to account.

Announcing the code's publication, Christopher Graham, the UK Information Commissioner, said:

"We have published our code of practice on managing the data protection risks related to anonymisation to provide a framework for practitioners to use when considering whether to produce anonymised information. The code also aims to bring a greater consistency of approach and to show what we expect 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.

"We hope today's guidance helps practitioners to protect privacy and enable the use of data in exciting and innovative ways. We would also like to thank those people who took part in our recent consultation and helped today's code of practice become a reality."

The ICO said that a consortium led by the University of Manchester, with the University of Southampton, Office for National Statistics and the government's new Open Data Institute (ODI), will run a new UK Anonymisation Network (UKAN).

The network will receive £15,000 worth of funding from the ICO over the next two years to enable sharing of good practice related to anonymisation, across the public and private sector. The network will include a website, case studies, clinics and seminars.

In a related blog , the ICO's head of policy Steve Wood said that while the disclosure or use of many datasets will be in the public interest, the public 'rightly' expect that this will not be at the expenses of their privacy.

"The public's support and trust in initiatives such as open data will be damaged of their privacy is compromised. We believe anonymisation has a crucial role to play in this data revolution; it offers great opportunities, but it is also important that risks are properly considered and managed. We find that the risks related to anonymisation are sometimes understated and also overstated. Developing an effective and balanced risk framework for anonymisation is vital to protect privacy and provide rich sources of data, that can benefit society and the economy."


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