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SFI research centres collaborate with Meta on data protection, privacy

SFI Research Centres to collaborate with Meta to accelerate data privacy innovations
Image: Soumil Kumar/Pexels

27 January 2022

Meta is to invest €500,000 with Irish institutions for research projects into privacy protection, data sharing and data governance. The projects will form part of Empower, an academic and industry research programme run by four SFI Research Centres: Lero, Insight, FutureNeuro and Adapt.

As technology evolves and lives become increasingly digitised, it is important that private and public organisations are transparent and open about their data practices. The research projects will look at current data governance and privacy protection systems to identify gaps and opportunities to ensure that evolving privacy standards and protections are effective, inclusive, and fair. 

Meta, the umbrella company covering WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook, is investing in this area of research as the company believes people should be confident that their data is protected, being shared responsibly and that they have meaningful options to access, delete, and move it.  




Two projects will be funded under Meta’s investment, one at the Adapt centre for AI-driven digital content and another at the Insight centre of data analytics.

The Adapt project aims to give partners in the healthcare data space a framework for understanding different regulatory and organisational policy constraints on data sharing and ensure that data is shared in a way that respects the rights and freedom of users. This project is responding to one of the key priorities of the EU Data Strategy that looks to support better data flows within the EU. 

Insight will look at advancing privacy-enhancing technology (PET) such as de-identification and anonymisation. This area of research aims to enhance people’s trust in privacy systems and enhance regulators’ ability to understand automated-decision and AI-powered systems, which will ultimately lead to better oversight of data-driven practices. 

“The investment from Meta supports innovative research projects addressing significant challenges of data governance helping to realise Empower’s ambition of establishing leading practices in data governance,” said director of Empower, Prof Markus Helfert of Maynooth University. “This will form the foundation, technologies and key approaches of a trusted global data ecosystem, with positive societal impact. As the amount of data increases, data ecosystems need to be governed effectively driving complex information supply chains.”

“The role of technology in our lives and society is evolving faster than ever before,” said Dan Hayden, director of privacy policy at Meta. “It is critical that we work hard to put privacy first and work with people at the forefront of emerging technologies and scientific understanding to find solutions to current and future industry challenges. We are delighted to be collaborating with leading Irish research institutions and investing in this important area of research.”

Launched in November 2021, the Empower research programme will run for four years. Data sharing is not part of the agreement and Meta will not be sharing data with Empower for these research projects. 

TechCentral Reporters

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