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June 9 -- The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)—on behalf of the Fast Track Action Committee on Advancing Privacy-Preserving Data Sharing and Analytics of the Subcommittee on Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) of the National Science and Technology Council, the National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Office, and the NITRD National Coordination Office—requests public comments to help inform development of a national strategy on privacy-preserving data sharing and analytics, along with associated policy initiatives. The national strategy will put forth a vision for responsibly harnessing privacy-preserving data sharing and analytics to benefit individuals and society. It will also propose actions from research investments to training and education initiatives, to the development of standards, policy, and regulations needed to achieve that vision. Interested persons and organizations are invited to submit comments on or before 5:00 p.m. ET on Friday, July 8.

Privacy-Enhancing Technologies (PETs) present a key opportunity to harness the power of data and data analysis techniques in a secure, privacy-protecting manner. This can enable more collaboration across entities, sectors, and borders to help tackle shared challenges, such as health care, climate change, financial crime, human trafficking, and pandemic response. PETs can also help promote continued innovation in emerging technologies in a manner that supports human rights and shared values of democratic nations, as highlighted during the Summit for Democracy in December 2021, which included an announcement that the United States and the United Kingdom are collaborating to develop bilateral innovation prize challenges focused on advancing PETs. However, to date, PETs have not achieved widespread adoption due to a variety of factors, among them, limited technical expertise, perceived risks, financial cost, and the need for more research and development.

The purpose of this Request for Information is to better understand how to accelerate the responsible development and adoption of PETs in a manner that maximizes the benefit to individuals and society, including increasing equity for underserved or marginalized groups and promoting trust in data processing and information technologies.

Terminology: Privacy-enhancing technologies (PETs) refer to a broad set of technologies that protect privacy, which are within the scope for this RFI. We are particularly interested in privacy-preserving data sharing and analytics technologies, which describes the set of techniques and approaches that enable data sharing and analysis among participating parties while maintaining disassociability and confidentiality. Such technologies include, but are not limited to, secure multiparty computation, homomorphic encryption, zero-knowledge proofs, federated learning, secure enclaves, differential privacy, and synthetic data generation tools.

Background: Data are vital resources for solving society's biggest problems. Clinicians are using data to identify the best treatments for their patients, farmers are using data to predict and improve farm yields, and public servants are using data to create evidence-based policies. Artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging analytics techniques are amplifying the power of data, making it easier to discover new patterns and insights, ranging from better models to predict the impacts of climate change to new methods for detecting financial crimes.

While data are enabling innovation and insights across sectors, it can still be challenging to harness the full potential of data due to the overarching imperative for adequate privacy and security protections. For instance, when trying to explore developing new treatment options, some medical researchers may experience challenges when trying to gain access to medical records because those records reveal health information that may identify the individual patients, implicating the privacy and safety of those patients as well as medical privacy law. In other situations, confidentiality concerns around intellectual property limit research collaborations that could improve data model training and speed advances within those sectors.

Certain types of PETs provide ways to share data or provide access to data to drive innovation while also protecting privacy. For example, PETs could allow for the analysis of medical images across hospitals and international borders without transferring that data or even without using or disclosing the images to researchers. PETs could enable access to more comprehensive and diverse datasets, which in turn could enable the development of AI systems that can produce better treatments for patients from all demographic backgrounds.

Acknowledging this potential, the Federal Government seeks to develop a national strategy for advancing and adopting privacy-preserving data sharing and analysis. In the public sector, PETs can facilitate more integrated public services by enabling data analysis across agencies, advancing the Federal Data Strategy's mission “to fully leverage the value of federal data for mission, service, and the public good.” In the private sector, PETs can spur innovation and efficiencies by making it feasible for companies to enable more data access for researchers and nonprofits, or even for each other, without disclosing sensitive information.

Data processing by the Federal Government and in the private sector is currently governed by a number of laws, regulations, and policies. Many of these policies are in place to protect the information privacy of individuals and businesses, often by sector (e.g., healthcare, education), by entity (e.g., interagency data sharing, open data), or by jurisdiction (e.g. the California Consumer Protection Act). However, as PETs continue to mature and mitigate the risks to information privacy when used to enable data sharing and analysis, it is possible that some existing policies will need modification. Such modifications could make it easier to harness the potential of PETs, while ensuring that the Federal Government and other entities continue to manage data in a responsible and privacy-protecting manner.

Through this RFI, we seek public input to identify potential actions or recommendations that could be put forth as part of a national strategy on privacy-preserving data sharing and analysis. We are especially interested in comments on Federal laws, regulations, authorities, research priorities, and other mechanisms across the Federal Government that could be used, modified, or introduced to accelerate the development and adoption of PETs.

Scope: OSTP invites input from any interested stakeholders. In particular, OSTP is interested in input from parties researching, developing, acquiring, using, or governing privacy-enhancing technologies; parties with expertise on the exchange of data with or within the Federal Government; and parties with experience using PETs to ensure effective delivery of Federal services and increase equitable outcomes.

Information Requested: Respondents may provide information for one or as many topics below as they choose. Through this RFI, OSTP seeks information on potential specific actions that would advance the adoption of PETs in a responsible manner, including on the following topics:

1. Specific research opportunities to advance PETs
2. Specific technical aspects or limitations of PETs
3. Specific sectors, applications, or types of analysis that would particularly benefit from the adoption of PETs
4. Specific regulations or authorities that could be used, modified, or introduced to advance PETs
5. Specific laws that could be used, modified, or introduced to advance PETsas it applies to data sharing among international entities.
6. Specific mechanisms, not covered above, that could be used, modified, or introduced to advance PETs
7. Risks related to PETs adoption
8. Existing best practices that are helpful for PETs adoption
9. Existing barriers, not covered above, to PETs adoption
10. Other information that is relevant to the adoption of PETs

FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2022-12432
OSTP blog Advancing a Vision for Privacy-Enhancing Technologies (6.28): https://www.whitehouse.gov/ostp/news-updates/2022/06/28/advancing-a-vision-for-privacy-enhancing-technologies/

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