Firms get public data in Dominic Cummings tech drive

“Mr Cummings is also working to set up a “skunkworks” in No 10, with the establishment of a fellowship scheme for ten data analysts and advertisements for a £200,000-a-year role as chief data officer working alongside Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister. The term “skunkworks” was first used by workers at the aircraft maker Lockheed Martin to describe a group working on innovative projects, unencumbered by bureaucracy.”

George Grylls www.thetimes.co.uk 
Private companies will get access to public data under a pilot scheme announced by the government to start Dominic Cummings’s unshackling of the tech industry.

The National Data Strategy, published last week, says that “perceived and genuine” legislative barriers had prevented greater data sharing. The paper claimed that releasing anonymised data could aid research. It gave the example of court submissions being shared with researchers to establish patterns of repeat criminal behaviour.

Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, speaking at London Tech Week alongside representatives from Facebook and Microsoft, said that data was one of the most valuable commodities in the world. “Forget oil,” he said. “The fuel of our modern economy . . . is data.”

The £2.6 million pilot scheme will “test the possibilities” of sharing data with private companies, initially on a project to detect online dangers such as cyberbullying. A contract is understood to be going out for tender.

Mr Cummings, the prime minister’s chief adviser, has long been critical of data privacy laws. No 10 now appears convinced that there needs to be a permanent change in the way that public data is used after collaborating with companies during the pandemic. Palantir, Faculty, Amazon, Google and Microsoft were invited to use government databases to help to co-ordinate the response to the coronavirus.

Anonymised information provided included chest scans and NHS bed occupancy levels. Mr Dowden noted that the pandemic had set a “high watermark” for data-sharing.

Mr Cummings is also working to set up a “skunkworks” in No 10, with the establishment of a fellowship scheme for ten data analysts and advertisements for a £200,000-a-year role as chief data officer working alongside Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister. The term “skunkworks” was first used by workers at the aircraft maker Lockheed Martin to describe a group working on innovative projects, unencumbered by bureaucracy.

It comes after the government proposed the use of online ID cards for anything from drinking in pubs to registering with a GP.

Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch, the civil liberties group, criticised the influence of Mr Cummings. “When most governments are trying to rein in data grabs by the private sector, our government seems to be doing the opposite,” she said. “This government is churning out increasingly dystopian plans at a huge cost to the public purse and civil liberties.”

The tech industry, however, welcomed the proposals. Darren Hardman, general manager of Amazon Web Services in Britain, said: “Making more effective use of data . . . is key to the UK’s long-term economic growth.”

Chi Onwurah, the shadow digital secretary, said that without a regulatory framework the plans amounted to “a power grab by No 10 for people’s personal information”.

Mr Dowden maintained in his speech that the government would only use people’s data “ethically”.

One thought on “Firms get public data in Dominic Cummings tech drive

  1. Guess what.

    Correlate lots of “anonymised” data sets and you’ll find, in many cases, it’s quite possible to de-anonymise it.

    This is the lie of “anonymised data”

    Like

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