ICO's regulatory Sandbox enters beta phase

Sandbox will help startups ensure personal data-based products and services comply with data protection laws

Team working on a project

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has opened the beta phase of its Sandbox to applicants.

The Sandbox is a new regulatory service for organisations that use personal data to develop products and services to build them with ICO support and guidance. Specifically, it means that ICO specialist staff will help participants work through how they use personal data within their projects and ensure they comply with data protection rules.

In this beta phase, the Sandbox aims to offer a free service for ten or so organisations of varying size and operation. Each startup application will be carefully considered by the ICO on the basis of whether the product or service being developed is innovative and has a demonstrable benefit to the general public.

"Thousands of organisations are working on projects using personal data to transform the way we live and work," said Simon McDougall, executive director for tech and innovation at the ICO. "We want to support this innovation whilst helping ensure that the products and services under development are compliant and deliver benefits to the public.

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"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."

The ICO is expecting many innovative products and services to come through the Sandbox and some of these will be operating in challenging areas of data protection. Particularly in areas where there's genuine uncertainty about what compliance looks like.

As a result, some participants may become use-cases from which the regulator can anticipate changes and develop public guidance and resources on compliance.

The chosen startups will receive an on-site visit from a dedicated Sandbox team member, who will work with them to set out a bespoke strategy within the Sandbox programme. Successful applicants will exit the Sandbox by September 2020 when the beta phase is planned to finish.

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