Secure space for Singapore companies to test privacy enhancing technologies launched

Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo said privacy enhancing technologies provide businesses with opportunities to develop useful artificial intelligence systems. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Companies here now have a designated secure space to test technology that allows them to use or share business data easily while masking sensitive information, such as their customers' personal details.

This testing ground for privacy enhancing technologies (PETs) is part of a new government initiative by the Infocomm Media Development Authority and Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC).

The PET Sandbox was announced by Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo at the Personal Data Protection Seminar, which was held at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre on Wednesday (July 20).

PETs refer to tools and processes which enable the sharing of useful insights extracted from data, without disclosing the actual data.

They potentially help to address data security concerns by companies when sharing information and allow for more opportunities for businesses to collaborate.

An example would be the PET offered by tech firm betterdata, which uses real data to generate artificial data. The synthetic data is statistically and structurally similar to the original and retains the same insights, but can be used freely without the risk of disclosing sensitive information.

In her speech at Wednesday's event, Mrs Teo said PETs provide businesses with opportunities to develop useful artificial intelligence (AI) systems.

"For instance, banks can pool data and build AI models for better fraud detection, while protecting their customers' identities as well as financial information," she said.

betterdata chief executive Uzair Javaid said PETs are useful when large enterprises, such as banks and insurance companies, seek to use AI solutions offered by start-ups for their business needs.

While start-ups would first need data from the businesses on which to base their AI solutions, big companies may not be comfortable sharing real data with them.

"This gap is where privacy technologies come in," said Mr Javaid.

He said the PET Sandbox gives companies the confidence and leeway to experiment with PETs and come up with innovative solutions.

"Without the sandbox itself... there is no inherent safe environment where people can trial privacy technologies to see how effective they are for their business use cases," he said.

Participants of the PET Sandbox will also have access to a panel of PET solution providers and receive regulatory guidance on using the technology.

Eligible companies may be given grants to reduce the costs of adopting PETs.

"Our learnings from the sandbox will in turn inform our policies and help set standards and best practices," said Mrs Teo.

"This will also promote the development of a safer and more innovative data ecosystem for all."

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