Data Policy Network

Privacy Enhancing Technologies; a timely new report from the Royal Society

In the last few years the UK’s Royal Society has produced a series of reports looking at how to take advantage of the promise of the data age, whilst also thinking about how to mitigate new risks that come alongside these opportunities.

This includes ‘Progress and research in cybersecurity’ (2016), ‘Machine learning’ (2017), ‘Data management and use’ (2017) and its latest report, published last month: “Protecting privacy in Practice, the current use development and limits of Privacy Enhancing Technologies in data analysis”. This report on Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PETs) came out of the requirements and opportunities identified in the previous reports, and looks at five PETs in detail, which it defines as:

  1. Trusted Execution Environment (TEE): isolated part of secure processors that allow the isolation of secret code from the rest of the software that is running on a system in order to achieve confidentiality of the data. Trusted execution environments are also known as secure enclaves.”
  2. Homomorphic Encryption (HE): a property that some encryption schemes have, so that it is possible to compute on encrypted data without deciphering it.”
  3. Secure Multi-Party Computation (SMPC or MPC): a subfield of cryptography concerned with enabling private distributed computations. MPC protocols allow computation or analysis on combined data without the different parties revealing their own private input.”
  4. Differential Privacy: security definition which means that, when a statistic is released, it should not give much more information about a particular individual than if that individual had not been included in the dataset. The differential privacy definition allows one to reason about how much privacy is lost over multiple queries (see privacy budget).”
  5. Personal Data Store (PDS): systems that provide the individual with access and control over data about them, so that they can decide what information they want to share and with whom.”

This report is an excellent step in providing greater clarity on some particularly promising technologies, but, as the report recommends, further work is needed. The report itself touches on this in some of its seven recommendations:

  1. Accelerate the research and development of PETs
  2. Promote the development of an innovation ecosystem
  3. Drive the development and adoption of PETs.
  4. Support organisations to become intelligent users of PETs.
  5. Give public sector organisations the level of expertise and assurance they need to implement new technological applications, enable a centralised approach to due diligence, and assure quality across the board.
  6. Create the skilled workforce needed to develop and implement PETs.
  7. Promote human flourishing by exploring innovative ways of governing data and its use that are enabled by PETs.


With privacy concerns an ever present part of the data debate, an analysis of which technologies might help us to navigate the opportunities and risks of the data age couldn’t be more timely. But what are these PETs? What can they do and what can’t they do? How are they being used today, and how might they be used in the future? What are the barriers which stand in their way? And what privacy problems do they not address?

For our next data policy evening we’re fortunate to have Dr Franck Fourniol, Policy Advisor at the Royal Society and the author of the report, providing his reflections. In the usual way this will then be followed by a structured discussion of three key issues in this space.


The Agenda

  • 5.45 - 6.30: General discussion and networking over food and drinks
  • 6.30 - 7.00: Reflections on Royal Society report from Dr Franck Fourniol, followed by Q&A
  • 7.00 - 8.00: Debate of selected questions in groups
  • 8.00 - 9.00: Back to open discussion with more food and drinks.

We try to keep the event relatively small to enable group discussions, but if you think there’s someone who would be particularly interested in the topic then please let us know and we’d be happy to invite them.

Please come and join us for an evening of food, drinks, lively debate, and all things data policy.


Testimonials from previous attendees

“The Privitar events are a great place to learn about the latest research in data policy, meet experts from different sectors facing the same data questions, and engage in challenging and honest discussions about the issues and solutions of tomorrow.”Christina Hitrova, The Turing

I really enjoy the opportunity to meet such a diverse range of people from business, government, academia, and civil society at the Privitar data policy evenings.”anonymous

“Privitar's data policy evenings are like a modern-day salon and always provide an interesting dive into the future of technology and policy” – anonymous

It was such a treat to spend an evening in the Privitar office chatting with smart and friendly people who knew so much about privacy and data. I learned a lot and it definitely helped inform my work. Will be back!Fionntan O’Donell, Senior Data Technologist, ODI

I thought there was a great mix of people with a breadth of expertise and experience, which led to really insightful conversationsEleonora Harwich, Director of Research, Reform


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4th June 2019
5:45pm - 9:00pm


Privitar HQ
Alto Tower, 3rd Floor
5 Hatfields, SE1 9PG
London, United Kingdom



by invitation only 


Franck Fourniol

Dr Franck Fourniol, Policy Advisor at the Royal Society

Franck is a Policy Adviser in the Data policy team at the Royal Society, the national academy of sciences in the UK, which he joined in 2014. He has been leading on the Royal Society's Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PETs) policy project, supporting a group of Fellows of the Royal Society and other experts to investigate the potential of PETs in enabling the use and sharing of data whilst protecting sensitive information.

Franck is also leading a collaboration with the network of European Academies (ALLEA), connecting debates on the governance of data management and use at a European level. Having worked on other emerging technologies including synthetic biology, he has been thrilled to explore the policy implications of data and digital technologies since his involvement in the Royal Society's major programmes on machine learning and on the governance of data management and use.

Previously, Franck was a postdoctoral research scientist and obtained a PhD in biophysics in 2010 having resolved molecular mechanisms using electron microscopy and image processing. He studied at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris (Ulm).

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