The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has appointed its first Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Dr Reuben Binns, an influential figure in the emerging AI and data protection policy community, is joining the ICO on a fixed term fellowship. During his two-year term, Dr Binns will research and investigate a framework for auditing algorithms and conduct further in-depth research activities in AI and machine learning.

His appointment supports the ICO’s goal of developing and enhancing its expertise and work in this increasingly important area.

Dr Binns is currently a researcher in Computer Science at the University of Oxford. His research interests include technical, legal and ethical aspects of privacy, machine learning, and decentralised systems. He has a BA and MSc in Philosophy from University of Cambridge, and a PhD in Computer Science and Law from the University of Southampton.

Dr Binns has previously worked as an advisor on personal data and algorithmic decision-making for organisations in the public and private sector, and for the European Commission. His recent work has focused on making transparent third-party tracking on the web, mobile and Internet-of-Things devices; and exploring legal, technical and human-computer interaction challenges relating to transparency, fairness and accountability in machine learning.

On accepting his appointment, Dr Binns said:

“I am honoured to be joining the ICO as its first Postdoctoral Research Fellow. AI is fast moving and increasingly important in relation to personal data, and I’m looking forward to developing and enhancing expertise at the ICO in this area”.

Simon McDougall, the ICO’s Executive Director – Technology, Policy and Innovation said:

“We are delighted that Reuben is joining us. Artificial intelligence is an exciting area that has great potential. However, like all new technologies, it also has the potential to be misused, and there is understandable anxiety amongst the public around how decisions using AI are being made. The ICO is committed to remaining engaged with emerging technologies, and Reuben’s work will deepen our understanding of this complex area.”

Technology is a key area for the ICO, in the past year the data protection regulator has published its:

  • First Technology Strategy, outlining how it will adapt to technological change as it impacts information rights and how it will plan ahead for the arrival of new technologies. The strategy explains eight technology goals and how it intends to achieve them.
  • Made AI one of its top three priorities for 2018/19 and updated its award winning paper on AI, Big Data and Machine Learning highlighting many of the issues and challenges facing society.
  • Announced the development of a regulatory ‘sandbox’ enabling organisations to develop innovative products and services while benefitting from advice and support from the ICO.
  • Added cyber incidents as a sixth strategic goal in the ICO’s Information Rights Strategic Plan.

If you need more information, please contact the ICO press office on 0303 123 9070, or visit the media section on our website.

Notes to Editors

  1. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is the UK’s independent regulator for data protection and information rights law, upholding information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
  2. The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA2018), the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR) and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 (PECR).
  3. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a new data protection law which applies in the UK from 25 May 2018. Its provisions are included in the Data Protection Act 2018. The Act also includes measures related to wider data protection reforms in areas not covered by the GDPR, such as law enforcement and security. The UK’s decision to leave the EU will not affect the commencement of the GDPR.
  4. Under past and current law, the ICO can take action to change the behaviour of organisations and individuals that collect, use and keep personal information. This includes criminal prosecution, non-criminal enforcement and audit. 
  5. Since 25 May 2018, the ICO has the power to impose a civil monetary penalty (CMP) on a data controller of up to £17million (20m Euro) or 4% of global turnover. The GDPR and the DPA2018 gave the ICO new strengthened powers.
  6. To report a concern to the ICO go to ico.org.uk/concerns.