The Alan Turing Institute

Privacy and Intelligence

Implications of Emerging Privacy Enhancing Technologies for UK Surveillance Policy

Research Report

Abstract

This report aims to establish an independent evidence base to inform future government policy development and strategic thinking regarding national security uses of Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PETs). The findings are based on in-depth consultation with stakeholders across the UK Intelligence Community (UKIC), Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office (IPCO) and academic experts.

The research has identified new opportunities for the UKIC and partner organisations to apply PETs in three main areas: data acquisition and information requests; secure machine learning; and non-operational data sharing. These opportunities possess high potential on the condition that the UKIC can establish clarity regarding the motivation for using a PET in each circumstance and the safeguards to be applied.

The research concluded that PETs may provide a less intrusive means of carrying out intelligence work. However, in each case the motivation for using the PET must be clear to inform the legal considerations governing its use. PETs could also encourage the sharing of knowledge and capabilities between the UKIC and external partners, although the successful use of PETs in this context will be closely linked to the levels of cooperation from third-party data holders.

There is a clear risk to deploying PETs without having developed appropriate levels of trust. Future policy will need to account for these concerns, to ensure that organisations retain appropriate knowledge and control over the analytical process deployed by the PET, thereby ensuring trust and accountability throughout the full analysis pipeline.

Authors

Citation information

George Balston, Marion Oswald, Alexander Harris and Ardi Janjeva, 'Privacy and Intelligence: Implications of Emerging Privacy Enhancing Technologies for UK Surveillance Policy', CETaS Research Reports, July 2022.