UK and US announce PETs Prize Challenges winners to drive innovations in privacy-enhancing technologies
The Privacy-Enhancing Technologies (PETs) Prize Challenges were announced at the inaugural Summit for Democracy in December 2021 and launched in July 2022 to drive innovation in PETs. The challenges inspired innovators on both sides of the Atlantic to build solutions that enable the collaborative development of artificial intelligence (AI) models while keeping sensitive information private.
Driven by a shared priority to employ data to help solve critical global challenges in a manner that affirms U.S. and UK commitments to democratic values and the fundamental right to privacy, the challenges focused on developing PETs solutions for two scenarios: forecasting pandemic infection and detecting financial crime.
World-leading experts from academic institutions, global technology companies, and privacy start-ups competed for cash prizes from a combined UK-U.S. prize pool of $1.6 million (£1.3 million). The winning solutions combined different PETs to allow the AI models to learn to make better predictions without exposing any sensitive data. This focus on combining privacy approaches encouraged the development of innovative solutions that address practical data privacy concerns in real-world scenarios.
In the final phase of the challenges, the privacy guarantees of the solutions were put to the test by “red teams” attempts to reveal the original data used for training the models. The resilience of the solutions to these attacks determined the final winners. UK participants also received support from the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to help them consider how their solutions could demonstrate compliance with key UK data protection regulation principles.
The United States and United Kingdom will continue to build on their shared interest in advancing responsible innovation in PETs. In May, a joint Demo Day will be held in London to deepen transatlantic communities of practice among UK and U.S. privacy researchers and government representatives. Further collaboration in this space, such as developing tools and guidance to assist practitioners in adopting these technologies effectively and responsibly, is being actively explored.
Watch the announcement at the Summit for Democracy 2023 (Day 2)
The prize challenges were designed and delivered through a collaborative, bilateral process. In the UK, the challenges were delivered by the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, part of the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, and Innovate UK. In the United States, the challenges were funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Science Foundation, with partnership from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Additional support was provided by the UK Information Commissioner’s Office, the UK Financial Conduct Authority, NHS England Transformation, the U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, Swift, and the University of Virginia Biocomplexity Institute.