Meta Ireland teams up with SFI centres on data privacy research

27 Jan 2022

Image: © Valeriya Zankovych/

Meta is investing half a million euro in Irish research projects looking to find new innovations in data privacy.

Facebook’s parent company, Meta, is teaming up with researchers from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) centres to investigate data sharing, data governance and data privacy protection.

The company is investing €500,000 in two projects that will form part of a four-year academic and industry research programme called Empower.

This programme was launched late last year and is being run by four SFI research centres: Lero, Insight, FutureNeuro and Adapt. The aim is to future-proof EU data flows and drive innovation in data protection.

Data privacy has been a hotly debated issue in Europe for several years, with the introduction of GDPR in 2018 and two major acts to curb the influence of Big Tech in the EU pipeline.

Looking at current data governance and privacy protection systems, the two projects receiving funding aim to identify gaps and opportunities to ensure that future privacy standards and protections are effective, inclusive and fair.

Meta said it is investing in this research because it believes people should be confident that their data is protected, being shared responsibly and that they have options to access, delete and move it.

“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.”

One of the funded projects will take place at Adapt, the SFI research centre for digital content based at Trinity College Dublin. The aim of this project is to give partners in the healthcare data space a framework for understanding the policy constraints on data sharing – ensuring it respects the rights and freedom of users.

Meanwhile University College Cork researchers at Insight, the SFI centre for data analytics, will focus on privacy-enhancing technologies such as de-identification and anonymisation. Their goal is to enhance people’s trust in privacy systems and regulators’ ability to understand AI-powered systems.

Prof Markus Helfert of Maynooth University, who is the director of Empower, said that the Meta investment supports research projects addressing “significant challenges” of data governance, helping realise Empower’s ambition of establishing leading practices in data governance.

“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,” he added.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic