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Ethics and responsibility 

We follow the highest standards of ethical conduct and responsible data practices. We ensure data is governed in a trustworthy way for appropriate levels of privacy and full legal compliance.  

Research for the public good 

If used responsibly for ethical research, smart data can be a powerful force for good.  

Smart data can help us: 

  • understand the relationship between diet and illness 
  • develop insights about the financial wellbeing of communities in different parts of the UK  
  • support emergency response to natural disasters 


SDR UK only supports research that has a public benefit and complies with the highest standards of ethical conduct. The safe, secure and responsible handling of data underpins our work. Rigorous safeguards are used to protect personal information, in full compliance with data protection law.

For more information on how research complies with data protection law, see 
GDPR and research – an overview for researchers – UKRI

To earn public trust, the public needs to be actively heard, engaged and involved in decisions around how their data is used. SDR UK will put this at the centre of its work through a programme of public engagement.

Protecting sensitive data 

In using data for public good, we must have rigorous safeguards to protect personal data from misuse.  We use a range of techniques to protect sensitive personal data. For instance, data can be de-identified by stripping out any personal identifiers such as name or address. Data can be aggregated by summarising as population statistics. Data can be safely shared with researchers according to different levels of sensitivity, including: 

  • Open data: where it is impossible to identify an individual. The data is completely safe, and it can be made freely available to all. For example, statistics about the number of people living in a town. 
  • Safeguarded data: where data contains no personal or otherwise sensitive information. It may still be restricted for other reasons. For example, due to licence conditions. Access is available via a registration process and project approval requirements. 
  • Secure data: where data need to be held under the most secure conditions with stringent access restrictions. Access is available within secure ‘trusted research environments’. Researchers wishing to use the data go through a rigorous accreditation process, which includes an assessment of the ethics of the proposed research, to ensure it delivers benefit to the public. 

With secure data, SDR UK operates according to the Five Safes model developed by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This is a set of established safeguards and measures to ensure data is kept safe and secure:  

  • safe people 
  • safe projects 
  • safe data 
  • safe settings 
  • safe outputs 

These dimensions collectively address various aspects of data handling, including: 

  • appropriate access  
  • project intentions 
  • data de-identification  
  • secure environments 
  • controlled data outputs  

By encompassing these safeguards, the ONS Five Safes model provides a structured approach that balances the public benefit of data use with the imperative of safeguarding privacy and security. 

These measures, and others, reflect our commitment to data safeguarding and the preservation of public trust. 

Find out more  

To find out more about the specific measures our data services employ, please visit their websites. You will find bespoke privacy information for the relevant datasets on the webpages of those datasets. 

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