We Can Haz Our Personal Data Back from Corporates? #midata

Yesterday, UK gov folk announced what I imagine someone, somewhere, has termed “a breakthrough in consumer empowerment”, a voluntary scheme for corporates to opt in to that means they may let us have access to some of the data they’ve collected about us.

According to BBC technology reporter Rory Cellan-Jones (Midata: Will the public share government’s enthusiasm?), here’s what we can expect:

[From] Callcredit which holds credit files on every adult in the UK.

It’s now promising that every consumer will be able to look at their file for free for life, in a radical change to its business model. …

Scottish Power’s midata plans involve making its customers’ annual energy consumption data more easily accessible to make the process of switching suppliers easier.

And finally, there was the Royal Bank of Scotland which is promising to give its customers “a complete walkthrough” of all their annual transactions. So, for instance, you will be able to find out how much you spent at Tesco last year*.

*Only you won’t be able to get that information from Tesco, because they haven’t signed up?

A lot of this information is likely to already be available to folk who are interested in the quantified self. For example, you can download your statements from your bank or credit card company, as data, or use services (in the US at least?) such as Mint to aggregate and report on your personal finance data; you can use devices such as Current Cost to track your energy usage, or apps on your phone to break down how you’ve used it, and so on…

But maybe if neatly packaged and re-presented data (as well as data as data) were more available, there would be wider interest in it? Maybe…

I also noticed that Google is a signatory to the #midata initiative. So what might we expect from them? Here are three things that I think might already hit #midata buttons, so maybe this will give us a clue as to the sort of thing we can expect to see when (if…) companies start rolling our #midata services next year:

PS By the by, if you search around things like “mi data” you tend to turn up jobs around the areas of market intelligence and management information systems… Just noticing…;-)

PPS I also noticed this in Rory’s article: “Meanwhile the government’s drive to free up public data has hit a few roadbumps. … The consumer affairs minister Edward Davey said there was a balance to be struck when it came to public data: “It’s got to be sustainable. If we gave away large datasets that cost a lot of money to collect, the data would degenerate over time.” So: the plan is that companies make data they were keeping to themselves “open” to the people who generated it, presumably for free rather than for a fee, but we need to hold off on opening up data collected at public expense that could be used to drive innovation, efficiencies (or so govt were claiming a year or two ago) and wider awareness in the public sector because it’s unsustainable?

PPPS Something I’d like to see in my data returns from signatories is a list of folk and partner organisations who they’ve sold or otherwise exchanged my personal data with, along with a list of what data was included in that transaction…

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

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