The UK Government has announced a ground-breaking joint venture with 26 organisations to empower consumers to have more control over their personal data.

midata, launched on the 3rd November 2011, is a voluntary scheme that will allow consumers to access their data in a safe and secure way and make better decisions reflecting their personal wants and needs. New services made possible by midata will further assist consumers, whether it be in getting the best deal on their mobile phone contract or energy tariff, or managing their lives more efficiently.

Launching the midata vision, Consumer Affairs Minister, Edward Davey said:

“Currently, most consumer data is held by service providers, meaning only one side of the customer-business relationship is empowered with the tools of information management. midata seeks to redress that balance.

“This is the way the world is going and the UK is currently leading the charge. We see a real opportunity here, but others, including the US and EU, are also showing real interest in the programme and the economic benefits it can deliver. So if we want to continue leading the way, we need to develop a platform upon which the innovation and services that drive growth can be built. midata aims to do just that.

“I’m delighted that so many organisations are supporting our vision and I look forward to working with them closely as the programme progresses.”

The midata programme marks a non-regulatory approach to consumer empowerment and is in keeping with the Government’s broader focus on transparency and openness.

The next step will include setting time lines and developing online ‘personal data inventories’ (PDIs) in each sector, which will describe the types of data an organisation holds about each customer.

Protocols will also be established to handle any issues relating to privacy, data security and consumer protection. midata is also working with companies to develop common approaches that will allow customers to access their data including their contact details, current tariffs and contracts, etc and update basic information about themselves.

The PDI and access work will precede the release of data back to customers in an electronic format. The goal is to enable the first releases in the first half of 2012.

Businesses and organisations that have so far committed to working in partnership with Government to achieve the midata vision are:

  • Avoco Secure
  • billmonitor
  • British Gas
  • Callcredit
  • EDF Energy
  • E.ON
  • Garlik
  • Google
  • Lloyds Banking Group
  • MasterCard
  • Moneysupermarket.com
  • Mydex
  • npower
  • RBS
  • Scottish Power
  • Scottish Southern Energy
  • The UK Cards Association
  • Three
  • Visa

The other organisations involved are made up of government agencies and consumer groups

The Government’s vision for midata
Consumer Data Empowerment midata is a voluntary partnership between the UK Government, businesses, consumer groups, regulators and trade bodies to create an agreed, common approach to empowering individuals with their personal data.

midata recognises and supports the principle of individuals using their own customer information to gain an insight into their own behaviour, make more informed choices and better decisions, to manage their affairs more efficiently, and to obtain the products and services that best meet their needs.

midata is part of the Government’s growth agenda. It will help achieve economic growth by improving information sharing between organisations and their customers, sharpening incentives for businesses to compete keenly on price, service and quality, building trust and facilitating the creation a new market for personal information services that empower individuals to use their own data for their own purposes.

Organisations can help realise the goals of midata by providing customers with the ability to access and re-use their ‘customer data’ – including data about customer transactions, interactions and usage behaviours that organisations collect.

The aim of the midata project is for organisations that collect, store and use customer data to endorse and work towards the following goals and principles.

Organisations collecting, using and holding customer data should:

Maintain and make available to customers accurate and up-to-date descriptions of the types of personal data they hold about these customers. (Consumer Data Transparency)

Develop, support and promote ways to release customers’ data back to them in a safe, privacy-friendly, portable and re-usable manner. This data should be made available to them online for free and to use as they see fit. (Consumer Data Access) minimise risks of data breaches and invasions of privacy.  This includes

a) working to ensure that all personal information is accessed and released safely and securely

b) helping to create a personal data environment that enables individuals to hold, use and share their data in ways they understand and can trust, which protects their interests and empowers them to use their data for their own purposes. (Consumer Data Security) • work with other organisations via the midata project to encourage the innovation of new consumer information services that deliver midata goals. (Consumer Data Innovation)

Consumer Data principles

The following principles will guide the project:

  1. Data that is released to customers will be in reusable, machine-readable form in an open standard format.
  2. Consumers should be able to access, retrieve and store their data securely.
  3. Consumers should be able to analyse, manipulate, integrate and share their data as they see fit – including participating in collaborative or group purchasing.
  4. Standardisation of terminology, format and data sharing processes will be pursued as far as possible across sectors.
  5. Once requested, data will be made available to customers as quickly as possible.
  6. The focus will be to provide information or data that that may be actionable and useful in making a decision or in the course of a specific activity.
  7. Organisations should not place any restrictions on or otherwise hinder the retention or reuse of data.
  8. Organisations will work to increase awareness amongst consumers of the opportunities and responsibilities that arise from consumer data empowerment.
  9. Organisations will provide customers with clear explanations of how the data was collected and what it represents, and who to consult if problems arise.

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