NEWS30 September 2019

Microsoft and Harvard to develop privacy platform

Data analytics News North America Privacy Public Sector Technology

US – Microsoft has partnered with Harvard University’s Institute for Quantitative Social Sciences to build an open source platform for researchers where data can be shared privately.

Personal data image_crop

The partnership will draw on differential privacy, a technology used to extract insights from data sets containing personal information while protecting data privacy.

Previously, researchers have used techniques such as de-identification to strip out sensitive data from datasets, but some studies suggest this method isn’t secure.

Microsoft’s Azure AI team and Harvard’s Gary King, founder and director of the institute, are leading the project to develop the tool, which was announced by the technology company’s chief data officer John Kahan.

When the platform has launched, researchers will be able to use it to share their data sets, combine previously unconnected data, and analyse them using AI.

King said: "Instead of balancing the interests of individuals in their own privacy and the interests the public has in researchers discovering knowledge to advance the public good, we aim to remove the conflict and achieve both."

Eric Boyd, Microsoft’s CVP for AI Platform, said: "This collaboration brings together Microsoft’s vast engineering resources and Azure AI with some of the most talented data scientists, engineers and researchers to develop a data sharing tool that will fundamentally change how we do research.

"We’re working through real scenarios from government, health care, academic and business sectors that will show how differential privacy provides the strongest possible privacy protections available, and we’re excited to see the deeper insights and new solutions that will emerge as a result."