US-UK Privacy Tech Initiative Focuses on Halting Financial Crime

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Both countries want to jumpstart development on privacy-enhancing technologies, which depend on data analysis with limited database access.

The White House announced new advancements under a technology collaboration between the U.S. and the U.K., focused on developing privacy-enhancing technologies to tackle digital financial crime. 

PETs created within this program will rely on maturing technologies, specifically federated learning techniques, to allow for machine learning algorithms drawing from high-quality datasets between organizations. 

Cross-agency collaboration will enable better data sharing across borders to help protect individuals’ sensitive financial information from theft and catch attempts at money laundering.

“The goal of the challenges is to spur innovation and accelerate progress to overcome technical barriers to broader adoption of privacy-enhancing technologies,” an official with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy told Nextgov. “The solutions developed by the participants in both the US and UK challenges will be software-based solutions with finalists to be announced at the second Summit for Democracy.”

The initiative was first announced in 2021’s Summit for Democracy. Challenges for PET development will include prizes, with a key feature of the devices to effectively protect, or “hide” data in safe digital environments while relying on it to catch financial crimes. 

Critically, the PET data analyses will draw from advanced and detailed datasets without formally accessing them. Regulators from both nations will be heavily involved in ensuring the datasets in use do not violate civil rights or privacy law, notably the UK’s 2018 Data Protection Act.

PETs developed in the U.S.-UK collaboration will be software technologies, the official confirmed. They also have potential to usher in more technological innovation in fields like healthcare, climate change and countering human trafficking. 

“Data can be marshaled to make life easier and more just. But too often, powerful data tools are instead used to deepen inequality and threaten our most basic freedoms,” OSTP lead Alondra Nelson commented. “This important initiative is an expression of our shared vision: a world where our technologies reflect our values and innovation opens the door to solutions that make us more secure.”

Future PET development comes at a pivotal time as the Biden administration attempts to gain a stronger grip of cryptocurrency and digital asset usage, including their potential for money laundering.