Items tagged "personal data"

Read about our views on marketplace changes as well as updates on our research and event programmes.

Slowly but surely, personal data – how organisations collect it and use it – is becoming a brand issue. Whether its press articles highlighting practices which surprise and dismay consumers and citizens, or the pressure of forthcoming EU data protection legislation, organisations are realising that personal data can no longer be relegated as a ‘back office’ issue, something that works silently and invisibly in the background with no one, except a few dedicated experts, paying much attention to it.

Typical of the changing mood are these comments from Unilever’s global privacy officer Steve Wright.  Speaking at a recent conference he…

Sizing the Prize

Posted: 24th March, 2014 | 0 comments

Ctrl-Shift is undertaking a major new research project to identify the business and economic case for PIMS (Personal Information Management Services) that help individuals collect and manage information under their own control and use information (including personal information) to make better decisions and manage their lives better.

We're looking for case studies, data, and input from a wide range of sources including new services and existing brands (what are the opportunities? what are the threats? and where are do they impact the most?).

If you want to be at the front line of understanding how your business and market will be…

A year of transition

Posted: 24th March, 2014 | 0 comments

It’s really simple: personal data is valuable and useful to the people whose data it is.  Yes it’s valuable to organisations, but it’s also valuable to individuals who can use it to do the things that organisations do with data: generate insights, inform decisions, streamline and automate tasks and processes.

This way points to the creation of unique new data sets focused on each individual, new levels of data sharing driving a vast array of new private and public services.

This is the ‘Personal Information Economy’ discussed at our conference on Thursday March 20. At this buzzing event, we heard…

A new market has emerged for personal data management services (PDMS) that help individuals assert more control over how their data is collected and used. This market is now growing fast with more than one new launch a week over the last year and it is beginning to transform relationships between customers and brands, says our new research “Mapping the market for personal data management” launched today at our inaugural Personal Information Economy 2014 event.

Traditionally, companies collect data about customers and use this data for their own purposes. But this traditional approach is giving way to new relationships…

A milestone in the data debate

Posted: 13th March, 2014 | 0 comments

Yesterday saw two significant milestones in the debate about personal data. First, the European Parliament approved proposals in a 621-10 vote to revamp Europe’s data protection regulations. Despite the biggest corporate lobbying exercise in history by the likes of Google and Facebook, the proposed provisions are more or less unchanged.

Second, Tim Berners-Lee, ‘father of the web’, called for a new internet ‘Magna Carta’ to establish internet rights and responsibilities and prevent its original vision and ideals being discarded.

The EU’s current data protection regulations were written before the internet. They didn't use the actual words but their underlying…

In this 3 minute video, Ctrl-Shift's strategy director Alan Mitchell explains why now is the ideal moment for Ctrl-Shift to bring together organisations, professionals and leading thinkers in a unique conference dedicated to the new and rapidly transforming personal information economy. Ctrl-Shift's inaugural Personal Information Economy event will be held in London on March 20, 2014. With only two weeks to go, this is an event not to be missed by those who want to hear first hand about the game changing opportunities and implications of the information-rich digital economy.

Alan tells us, “One of the things about this…

Open Data and personal data empowerment

Posted: 21st February, 2014 | 0 comments

Tomorrow is Open Data Day, a day designed to promote the spread of Open Data practices around the world.

There’s a fantastically exciting and astonishingly simple idea at the heart of Open Data: data currently lying around inside an organisation’s boundaries and used for only one thing could be used for many other things if it was made available outside.

The possibilities to add new value begin to explode as soon as data from previously separate sources starts to be combined.

The whole point about Open Data is that it’s open, free for anyone to use, a common resource.


At our Personal Information Economy 2014 event we’ll be exploring the game changing opportunities and implications of the new information rich digital economy. Personal information management services and trusted data sharing are changing relationships between consumers and organisations. An example of this is Pribook.

Pribook is a private networking platform which puts users in control of their information. It is a personal cloud service which lets users manage their identity, relationships with contacts and organsiations and information about the objects they own all in one place. By using Pribook, individuals are able to choose what information they…

Driving privacy AND growth

Posted: 31st January, 2014 | 0 comments

As part of European Data Protection week the EU announced that it expects its draft new proposals for data protection to be passed by the European parliament in April.

Many are sceptical – the lobbying around these proposals has been so intense there’s bound to be more twists and turns along the way, they argue.

Surprisingly, however, there’s been very little scrutiny into the assumptions behind both the lobbying, both for and against the proposals. The biggest assumption, which seems to be accepted largely by both sides, is that we have to make a choice between privacy or innovation and…

Data protection and trust

Posted: 28th January, 2014 | 0 comments

Today is European Data Protection Day, an annual event raising awareness of what kind of data is collected about people, how it is used and the rights we have about such processing. Data Protection Day takes place on January 28 every year commemorating the signing of Convention 108, the first legally binding international treaty dealing with privacy and data protection.

It is the ideal day to reflect on how rapidly the personal information economy is evolving, and, as it does so, how it is changing our economy, society and expectations with it creating the need for vital new services…

Next Generation Intermediaries

Posted: 24th January, 2014 | 0 comments

One of the biggest unmet consumer needs in society today is ‘decision support’.

Every day, every individual – whether customer, consumer or citizen – makes multiple decisions about many complex things: managing our money, managing our home, our heath, career, leisure activities and so on. Few of us are experts in any of these things. So we find ourselves muddling along, making do, procrastinating, being frustrated by a lack of information or understanding of the options, getting anxious about making the wrong decisions, and so on.

Enter the new market for decision support services – one of the key drivers…

One of the first pieces of research we did at Ctrl-Shift was into what we called VPI – Volunteered Personal Information. It was based on a seminal insight that in a digital world where individuals have some degree of choice over the amount of information they share with organisations, willingness to share such information becomes critical to competitive advantage for any organisation where access to personal data is essential.

Where individuals don’t trust an organisation or don't see value in sharing information with it they will ‘go dark’, choosing not to disclose information which they could or, if forced…

We are delighted to announce our inaugural Personal Information Economy 2014 event – your fast track opportunity to gain insight into what’s happening in the personal information economy. The event takes place on March 20 2014 at Glaziers Hall in Central London and early bird ticket sales are open today.

We have a growing list of world class speakers lined up. Our confirmed keynote speakers are:

Sir Nigel Shadbolt, Chair, Open Data Institute;
Sir Christopher Graham, Information Commissioner, ICO; and
Colin Strong, Managing…

We're hiring

Posted: 7th January, 2014 | 0 comments

Ctrl-Shift is looking for a marketing intern to join our growing business and expanding team. As the personal information market fast evolves we’re embracing exciting times and we have a fantastic opportunity for someone with the right aptitude and application to grow with us.

The Internship will be for six months and will focus primarily on marketing activities in the run-up to our inaugural Personal Information Economy 2014 event in March. The successful candidate will carry out activities including social media outreach, web content development and stakeholder management. There may also be an opportunity to work on some of Ctrl-Shift’s wider…

midata: from talking to doing

Posted: 20th December, 2013 | 0 comments

In late 2014, Jo Swinson, Minister for Consumer Affairs, wrote to the CEOs of companies in the regulated industries (banking, energy, mobile phones) asking them to report on progress made in implementing midata.

midata is an initiative to encourage the companies to release transaction data back to customers in a machine readable format so that they can use the data for their own purposes.

In the first few months of 2014, the Government is going to review progress on midata and decide whether to exercise the powers it gained under the 2013 Enterprise Reform Act to legislate.

This review will…

Intent casting is much talked about but little done. It’s the idea of consumers being able to express their intentions to the marketplace instead of being ‘targets’ for marketers’ messages.

Intently is an example of one of the pioneers of this concept. Users select a service and location and Intently finds relevant matches and sends out requests to them on the customer’s behalf. Founder Neil Harris told Ctrl-Shift how the business works and his plans for the future.

1. What’s the big benefit your service is designed to offer?

The biggest benefit is…

At the Privacy by Design User Forum in Toronto, attending Founding Partners from the Respect Network, the world’s first peer-to-peer network for personal and business clouds, today named Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner Dr. Ann Cavoukian as the network's first Honorary Architect.

The occasion was not only the conference, but also the release of a ground-breaking paper "Big Privacy: Bridging Big Data and the Personal Data Ecosystem through Privacy by Design" co-authored by Commissioner Cavoukian and Respect Network Corporation's CEO Drummond Reed. I had the honor of contributing to it from the Respect Network side as we took it from…

At Ctrl-Shift we constantly monitor the market for personal data and personal data services via weekly newsletters like Market Watch. We’ve summed up the key developments of the last year in our new Personal Information Economy Round-Up.

Most of us would agree that the personal information economy is evolving rapidly. But where are the most important changes unfolding? And when, and how, will their impacts be most sharply felt? The Round-Up reviews these developments across four main drivers of change: business (corporate, competitive and marketing initiatives), consumer (changing attitudes, expectations and behaviours including media coverage of consumer issues),…

midata learnings

Posted: 20th November, 2013 | 0 comments

The midata Innovation Lab (mIL) wound up Phase One yesterday with the publication of a report highlighting the key learnings, and a speech by Consumer Affairs Minister Jo Swinson at a showcase event where she predicted “in a few years time, we will all be using apps whose origins lie in this Lab”.

The mIL, she said, had been “wonderfully valuable” in creating the “tangible examples that create light bulb moments” where people grasp the potential of midata.

Key learnings from the mIL include the need to focus communications on value rather than the data per se and the need to automate…

The midata Innovation Lab (mIL) today published five ground-breaking new apps focused on key issues and tasks in consumers’ lives.

The apps, the product of intensive collaboration between the mIL’s 26 Founding Partners, are designed to demonstrate to companies, individuals and policy makers the potential of the new approach to personal data being pioneered by the mIL – aggregating the individual’s data (from many different sources) around the individual and integrating this data in innovative ways to make new services possible.

The mIL, hosted by the Department of Business Innovation and Skills, was launched in July this year to provide a unique…

CommonTerms is an innovative project that aims to create a standardised, simple language to make Terms and Conditions on websites about the use of personal data easier for consumers to understand. As well as the benefit to consumers such clarity provides an opportunity for businesses to engender trust through a reputation for transparency. The project is inspired by Creative Commons and coordinated by Metamatrix.

A recent report by Ipsos Mori for Deloitte found that on average website privacy policies take 25 minutes to read in full. CommonTerms will provide the key facts on one screen,…

CTRLio is a digital profile management service which aims to help users control and benefit from their personal data. By handing back control of personal data assets to individuals CTRLio believes businesses will develop more engaging commerce. The London-based company recently won investment from Seedcamp, a seed investment company specialising in innovative tech startups. We spoke to CPO and co-founder Dominic Strowbridge to find out more about the business.


1. What’s the big benefit your service is designed to offer?

CTRLio helps customers manage their digital profiles and use the information they…

Handshake is a new app and web service (in beta) that aims to help consumers to negotiate a price for their personal data and sell it directly to companies. Consumers create profiles choosing how much data they want to share. These are accessed by brands that contact individuals via the app and offer them rewards in exchange for their information. The offer to business is that they can benefit from real-time customer interactions creating opportunities to build more positive relationships with consumers. We spoke to Duncan White, a founder of Handshake, to find out more about the business.

One step forward ...

Posted: 20th September, 2013 | 0 comments

Just back from the Digital Enlightenment Forum in Brussels where Ctrl-Shift were one of the plenary speakers.

A number of impressive people were there including Tim Berners Lee, Kim Cameron (of  ‘laws of identity’ fame), Robert Madeline (Director General of DG Connect of the European Commission), Peter Hustinx (the European Data Protection Supervisor) and Wlliam Hoffman (World Economic Forum).

What a difference a year makes! At one level, the Snowden revelations seem to have transformed the personal data landscape forever, raising big doubts about the trustworthiness of many Silicon Valley giants.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the scale,…

The midata Innovation Lab (mIL) exhibited at the recent Campus Party Europe event in London. It was fantastic to see it being showcased alongside so many other exciting emerging technologies and services, proving how important the personal data market is becoming. The Digital Confidence Panel, which took centre stage on day two, discussed how permissioned based sharing of personal data could provide better services for consumers. The Panel, featuring the think tank Demos, the ODI, Telefonica, MIT, IBM and the ICO, supported the mIL as an inspiring demonstrator essential for exploring innovation and trust. Below is a video of some sound bites from the discussion.


miiCard, which provides online identity verification services, has made a series of announcements over the last few weeks. Businesses and people are signing up for their user-centric identity service which uses the power of volunteered information to create breakthrough efficiencies and value for all parties.

We heard their news from CEO James Varga at a recent miiCard investor event. They are seeking investment to grow the business internationally. Ctrl-Shift’s Alan Mitchell was invited to provide an independent analysis of the evolving identity market and while we were there we caught up with James to ask him about the event…

From Monday 16 September UK banks will offer their customers a guaranteed ability to switch current accounts in a simple, reliable, hassle free way.  The product of two years’ work by the payment industry’s regulator the Payments Council, there are high hopes the new switching guarantee will force banks to be more competitive and improve their customer service.

This comment from Metro Bank chief executive Craig Donaldson is typical. “At the moment far too many consumers put up with poor service from their bank simply because they believe switching to be too complicated,” he says. “Increased competition forces…

The evolving data sharing economy

Posted: 5th September, 2013 | 0 comments

On September 1 some important changes to the Freedom of Information Act (FoI) came into force – users that are entitled to a public sector dataset can now receive it in a useful form and can re-use it for commercial gain. The amendments are a further development which should be seen within the wider context of the UK Government’s commitment towards Open Data – promoting greater transparency and enabling its reuse in new services and applications stimulating economic growth – other programmes such as midata and Identity Assurance, and the evolving information economy.

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 provides…

A few weeks ago I attended the Creative Commons global summit, as a member of the CC-UK affiliate team, and came away thinking about lessons for the growing personal data ecosystem. 

Creative Commons is a non-profit organisation founded in 2003 to create and promote a set of alternative copyright licenses which allow creative works to be legally shared, remixed and built upon by others. Creators can communicate which rights they want to keep, and which they would like to waive. These licenses are now used in education, cultural archives, science, as well as in commercial contexts. By creating a…

Do you want to keep abreast of the key international commercial, technical and legal/regulatory developments and commentary around the changing personal data landscape? Ctrl-Shift produces a weekly Market Watch update tracking events, announcements and new services of interest as the value of personal data is re-assessed. Please register here if you would like to subscribe to this free resource to keep you up to date and informed.

Attitudes to personal data are shifting quickly, from data as a tool in the hands of organisations to data as a tool in the hands of the individual; from organisations collecting, managing…

The World Economic Forum’s Rethinking Personal Data Initiative has reached its third stage. The programme has already defined the value of personal data as an asset class and reinforced the value of trusted data flow. The third stage will bring together data experts with practitioners in different commercial environments so that together they can drive results that are practical, implementable, and can be widely communicated.

Ctrl-Shift has been working closely with WEF on the programme as is a contributor and key member of their international ‘Tiger Team’. This team is looking at how to create and implement the…

The midata Innovation Lab (mIL) is the world’s fastest-built data innovation lab, bringing together the most interesting and varied datasets (integrated around individuals) for brands, developers and consumer bodies to innovate with. The mIL is made up of nine ‘learning and doing strands’. Each strand, led by one of the founding partners, explores and builds learnings in the various consumer, business and wider social aspects that we think will form part of the emerging ecosystem.

Ctrl-Shift is leading on the Innovative Apps & Services strand. The aim of the strand is to generate ideas, concepts and prototype services using data…

There’s a huge amount going on in the world of Open Data. There’s a huge amount going on in the world of personal data. What happens when these two worlds meet?

Answer: a veritable value explosion, as our new paper When Open Data meets Personal Data shows.

There’s something really special about this value explosion.

Big Data – the world of large volume data sets, statistics, correlations, patterns and trends – has huge potential in its own right. But it also has its limitations. Knowing where every bus or tube is, right now, on the London transport system is…

This week saw the public launch of midata Innovation Lab.  The mIL is a world first, empowering individuals as the point of integration of data about their own lives. One of the key questions that the mIL will explore is how to build trust and confidence in data sharing when, potentially, handing over so much more, richer data to a service provider?

One answer, increasingly discussed, is Trust Frameworks: which create rules, mechanisms and governance processes agreed across many parties to ensure trust, protection and confidence in data sharing. As part of our work in advising the midata programme…

midata Innovation Lab launches

Posted: 4th July, 2013 | 0 comments

Seeing is believing.  Many people can’t see the opportunity of something really new until they can see a working example. At Ctrl-Shift we can say that one day there will be as many services based on the permission based sharing of personal data as there are physical products using say, plastic or metal components. But until we provide those working examples many people – companies, individuals, policy makers – will mutter ‘it’s just a theory’ and walk away.

That’s why, in our role as business advisors to the UK Government’s midata programme we’ve been beavering away with colleagues from…

An interview with PasswordBox

Posted: 1st July, 2013 | 0 comments

PasswordBox stores logins so users can access any of their online accounts instantly. The Canada-based service, which now has over 500,000 users, has recently announced that it is coming out of private beta. We spoke CEO Daniel Robichaud about what the service has to offer and what the future holds for PasswordBox.

1.What’s the big benefit your service is designed to offer?

The big benefit is we securely simplify your online life.

Efficiency: Save time with a 1-click login. No more usernames or passwords to type or remember.

Peace of Mind: Never forget another password –…

A really interesting article by Internet Advertising Bureau President Randall Rothenburg has just gone up on its web site. I recommend you read it, not so much for its content but for its tone.

Just a few years ago the IAB’s tone was triumphant. It had discovered the secret of how to deliver perfect relevance and therefore solve the problems of advertising effectiveness forever. It had seen the future, and the future was it. Hurrah!

Now, if you read this blog, the shift in tone is remarkable. Using phrases like ‘kangaroo cookie court’ to describe Mozilla’s move…

One transformational feature of the emerging personal data landscape is individuals becoming magnets of their own data. Instead of each individual’s data being dispersed across hundreds of different organisations, each of which builds its own, different profile of that individual, individuals use services like personal data stores to aggregate and integrate data about themselves.

Initiatives like midata in the UK and the Blue and Green Button programmes in the US contribute indirectly towards this trend by encouraging organisations to release data they hold on individuals back to them.

Now US personal data store has opened up a new…

How to value personal data?

Posted: 21st June, 2013 | 1 comments

The Financial Times’ recent exercise to help individuals value their data has caused something of a stir amongst those interested in personal data.

It’s unfortunate that, in a world where data is increasingly recognised as a critically important raw material, the FT chose to base its calculations on the one tiny corner of the data industry that’s facing a mortal threat: data broking.

Data brokers make their money out of selling individuals’ data. It’s mostly unpermissioned (therefore lacking social and consumer legitimacy), collected and used out of context (therefore not relevant), and devoid of utility (e.g. used for targeting…

Last week the US based personal data store Personal announced it was moving from a free to a paid for service. We caught up with co-founder and CEO Shane Green to ask him about the background.

1. What does this move from Personal suggest about the evolution of the PDS market as a whole?

I think it signals the emergence of a robust, stable business model that both consumers and companies already understand – you pay for a service or product that is valuable.

We believe the heart of the current PDS or personal data vault market opportunity is around…

To see just how vicious the privacy battle between Microsoft and Google is getting, take a look at Microsoft’s parody of Google’s latest ad campaign. It’s one minute of extraordinary content.

Of course Microsoft has its own commercial agenda. For example, it's desperate to persuade consumers to switch their default search engine from Google to Bing. But that’s the point. The issue of ‘privacy’ and personal data is no longer about some individuals’ sensitivity or squeamishness, abstract moral debates or arcane policy wrangles. It’s moving on. It’s now about money – big money – as brands realise that the…

Some interesting sessions at the DataIQ conference this week. My talk was on the theme ‘Where Personal Data Meets Big Data’. One meeting point takes the form of a clash: the requirements of Big Data and of personal data protection are at loggerheads. Big Data is all about collecting as much data as you can, keeping it as long as possible (to identify trends), and using the data for as many purposes as possible (because it’s all about discovering new patterns, correlations and insights).

Data protection rules on the other hand require informed consent for the collection and use…

Midata now law. Now for The Flip.

Posted: 26th April, 2013 | 0 comments

The Enterprise Reform Bill, including provisions to give ministers power to require companies to release their data back to customers, has now received Royal Assent. Coincidentally, Ctrl-Shift’s Explorers Club had gathered for another foray into the changing relationship between individuals and organisations. Our focus this time: The Flip.

At top level, The Flip is a pretty simple idea. Midata says there’s enormous new value to be gained – for customers, companies and the economy as a whole – if companies release data they hold on their customers back to the customer. Customers can then use this data for their…

When hype cycles reach their peak, the connection between the thing at the heart of the hype (which may or may not be important) and what people say about this thing frays to the point of breaking. Unjustified extrapolations, logical leaps, ignoring contrary evidence, omitting consideration of other factors – these all become fair game once the hype takes over.

Panorama, a UK documentary programme with a reputation for seriousness, aired a programme last night showing the Big Data hype cycle at its peak. Let’s take a few examples.

Big Data in financial markets

In one section it implied that…

Midata legislation – almost there

Posted: 22nd March, 2013 | 0 comments

Legislation to enforce midata – consumers’ right to request an electronic copy of data held by the company – is all but complete. With one final reading of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill planned for the House of Commons on April 16, the provisions look pretty much certain to receive Royal Assent soon after Easter.

In its current form, the Bill doesn’t directly provide consumers with the right to demand their data. Instead, it gives Ministers powers to make regulations some time in the future if they decide that voluntary progress towards data release isn’t proceeding at a fast…

To get a glimpse of the future of consumer empowering services take a look at MoneySavingExpert’s new initiative the Cheap Energy Club – a price comparison service that not only compares prices but understands the behaviours and attitudes that stop us doing stuff we know we should.

Make it easy for me!

Instead of enabling one comparison (and perhaps one switch) Cheap Energy Club keeps on comparing your tariff against the market, month by month, so that you know when you are getting out of kilter and need to do something about it.

It’s also designed to address the…

When Open Data meets personal data

Posted: 4th February, 2013 | 0 comments


A few years ago, as part of the Open Data movement, Transport for London begin releasing data about the movements of buses and tubes through London.

Big deal.  So what? What does it matter to most Londoners if the 137 Clapham Omnibus is running three minutes late at half past three on a Tuesday afternoon?

Well, it could matter a lot to those Londoners waiting for the 137 to arrive. And now, there are a wide range of apps that use this data to tell you. Simply pop your local bus stop and bus route into…

Time to scrap 'informed consent'

Posted: 28th January, 2013 | 0 comments

As another International Privacy Day comes round again it’s time to question something at the heart of European privacy legislation – the notion of ‘informed consent’.

Good intentions

‘Informed consent’ was created with the best of intentions. But in its current form it is an obstacle to progress. It needs replacing.

The underlying goal is admirable enough: personal data is the person’s (not the organisation’s) and individuals should have the right to know what information an organisation is collecting about them and what the organisation is going to do with it. They should also have a right to give…

Learning from HMV

Posted: 24th January, 2013 | 0 comments

Many people have a nice, neat explanation for the demise of UK music and video retailer HMV. Senior management should have acted sooner, when they had the time and the resources to respond to the Internet threat (from online retailers like Amazon and new forms of music distribution such as iTunes).

The trouble with this explanation is that it doesn’t explain anything. Yes, of course HMV should have acted sooner but why didn’t they? The stock answer – that HMV management were clearly shortsighted and stupid – doesn’t hold water. Businesses like HMV aren’t run by stupid people. They are…

Can Barclays really change?

Posted: 22nd January, 2013 | 0 comments

It’s really quite something when a CEO as senior as Barclays’ Antony Jenkins' takes a stand as he has over  the need for corporate values that build trust.

In his recent letter to staff Jenkins admits that like other banks, over a period of almost 20 years Barclays “became too aggressive, too focused on the short-term, too disconnected from the needs of our customers and clients, and wider society”.

Setting out a new set of values (of respect, integrity, service, excellence and stewardship) he avers: “We must never again be in a position of rewarding people for making the…

midata legislation begins

Posted: 11th January, 2013 | 0 comments

Last night the Government lodged an amendment to the Enterprise and Regulator Reform Bill in the House of Lords to give the midata programme legislative backing. The amendment enables the Secretary of State to make regulations to companies to provide to their customers (upon request) their personal historic transaction and/or consumption data in an electronic format.

At one level, the practical implications of this move are quite limited. Only a few sectors are directly involved (energy, mobile phone, current account and credit card suppliers) and most of them have been involved in the voluntary side of the midata programme…

When we researched the changing personal data landscape a year ago we identified two underlying trends.

Historically, organisations have acted as the data manager and user. But now individuals are becoming managers of their own data and using information as a tool in their own hands. These trends are creating a hotspot of innovation – aspects of which include midata data releases to individuals, personal data stores and PIMS (information management services that help individuals make better decisions and manage their lives better).

These trends are creating a dilemma for organisations. On the one hand, far-sighted…

Instagram is not alone

Posted: 19th December, 2012 | 0 comments

No sooner had we completed our round up of the year than potentially the most momentous event of the year takes place: Facebook-owned Instagram’s attempt to unilaterally change its terms and conditions.

The London commuter paper The Metro reported it on its front page thus:
“Instagram has outraged its millions of users by threatening to sell their pictures for us in adverts.
“The photo-sharing site, bought earlier this year by Facebook, has updated its terms and conditions so it has control over the rights to any images which are…

In 2012 it became clear to everybody – big businesses, entrepreneurs, regulators and Governments, the general public and the media – that we need to re-evaluate personal data.

Organisations internationally are embracing a mindset shift. They are beginning to see that customer data are not just corporate assets. If we treat personal data as personal assets, pursue the potential of information as a tool in the hands of the individual and empower individuals as managers of their own data, then all sorts of innovation and growth opportunities fall out of the woodwork.

As attitudes are changing we are seeing action…

When open meets personal

Posted: 5th December, 2012 | 0 comments

With the explosion in volumes and types of data now being generated and collected it’s not surprising there’s also a proliferation of new data ‘movements’. There’s ‘Big Data’. The Internet of Things. The fast-developing personal data ecosystem.

And, yesterday, Open Data made its mark with a flourish – with the official launch of the Open Data Institute.

The ODI’s stated goal is to “catayse the evolution of an open data culture to create economic, environmental and social value. It will unlock supply, generate demand, create and disseminate knowledge to address local and global issues”.

At the heart of…

I’ve just had a big picture theoretical article on the nature of brands and branding published in a special edition of the Jourmal of Brand Management on ‘The New World of Brand’.

The article looks at developments in technology, in economics and economic theory, and psychology to examine marketing theories about what brands do and explains why ‘brand as information service’ strategies are becoming essential for most brands.

The article examines an oddity in the way marketing currently works. Companies work hard to make products that meet customer needs and that customers are keen to buy. They also work…

midata hackathon

Posted: 24th November, 2012 | 0 comments

Last weeked (17-18 November) was a world first - the first time a new type of data set was created: where individuals gathered up data about their own lives from a range of different sources including their energy consumption data, shopping (if they could get the data), spending through their banks and credit cards and so on.

With full respect for the individuals' privacy, a posse of developers then got to work to see what innovative new services they could come up with. The results were fascinating: completely new services in energy and money; exciting new ways to help individuals…

Our work for Innotribe, the innovation initiative of SWIFT (the global financial messaging service) is coming to fruition and we are delighted it will soon be made public. Over the last six months we have been part of an international team of experts working on an R&D project backed by the SWIFT Innotribe Incubation fund to develop a ‘Digital Asset Grid’.

The Digital Asset Grid is a new infrastructure for banks to provide a platform for secure peer to peer data sharing between trusted people, businesses, and devices. It’s a revolutionary idea and potentially game changing for the banking sector enabling…

midata principles gain ground

Posted: 14th October, 2012 | 0 comments

The evidence that midata is the way forward keeps coming. Last week Marketing magazine asked four senior brand leaders, ‘Could allowing consumers access to their data backfire on brands?’ Their resounding answer was that being transparent with consumer data, and enabling access to it, is the future for companies. Brands that realise the potential for personal information services enabled by data sharing will “be rewarded with increased loyalty.”

This is a follow up to the recent article on Tesco’s investment in Clubcard Play – Tesco’s new commitment to give consumers access to their own data to help them…

Just back from the World Economic Forum workshop in Brussels on ‘Unlocking the Value of Personal Data: Balancing Growth and Protection’.

The gist of WEF’s argument goes like this. Personal data is emerging as a hugely valuable economic asset – ‘the new oil’. Just like oil, if the value of this asset is to be realized it needs to flow, not remain stuck where it was created.  If personal data is flow, there must be trust and that means treating individuals less as passive data ‘subjects’ – the subject of organisations’ data gathering activities – and more as active…

Reinventing advertising

Posted: 20th September, 2012 | 0 comments

This week’s issue of Marketing Magazine carries a cover story written by me called ‘Beyond Advertising: Why Consumer Services Is Trumping Traditional Marketing’.

The key passage in the article goes like this:
"The simplest and most important driver of change is the basic fact of the information age. Not long ago – the pre-internet era of three TV stations for example – information/content was relatively scarce and available consumer attention was abundant. But now we’ve entered an era of information overload and clutter and the tables have turned. Power is shifting from the content/information provider to the attention owner.

Innovation opportunities of midata

Posted: 6th September, 2012 | 0 comments

According to Professor Nigel Shadbolt, the UK Government’s Information Advisor, interviewed on Radio 4’s You and Yours programme this week, the midata initiative will spur UK innovation. It will unlock and stimulate a whole range of new personal information management services to help people use their own data to support and inform them about their lives. Many of these services, he said, we can’t yet imagine, but some are on the horizon and a new UK industry will emerge.

This is what he said about what midata is aiming to address.

"The idea behind midata is that all of our interactions…

Why legislate on midata?

Posted: 7th August, 2012 | 0 comments

As some of you may know, Ctrl-Shift has been acting as a strategic advisors to the UK Government’s midata programme. Now the pace is accelerating decisively with the Government’s move to give UK consumers additional statutory rights to their data in portable electronic form.

Of course, decisions like this are political and made by ministers. We weren’t party to the political discussions. But from the specific perspective of midata itself here are some reasons why this initiative is a good move.

Consumer Minister Norman Lamb notes in his introduction to the consultation midata has made significant progress over the last…

Today marks an important milestone in the personal data landscape. The US based Respect Network – which has developed the award winning Respect Trust Framework enabling members to securely share identity and personal data – has announced two major corporate founding partners, leading global technology company Neustar and telecoms giant Swisscom.

It’s an important development for two reasons.

Firstly, it means that the concept of a Vendor Relationship Management network, one that connects people to people and people to companies in a trusted, two way information contract, has taken a major step towards market availability. It is the first global,…

Privacy as a personal setting

Posted: 9th July, 2012 | 0 comments

At the recent World Economic Forum Tiger Team meeting in London I gave a short presentation on the commercial opportunities opened up by empowering individuals with data. (If you want a copy of the presentation, please get in touch).

I outlined four unfolding trends:

Information as a tool in the hands of the individual – a ‘phase change’ (as WEF’s William Hoffman put it) from the old status quo where information was almost exclusively a tool in the hands of the organisation.
Individuals as managers of their own data. This is driving the rise of new…

Internet of Things Showcase

Posted: 5th July, 2012 | 0 comments

Last week we took part in the Technology Strategy Board’s Internet of Things Showcase.  We presented the results of our study (collaborating with University of Southampton and BT) which scrutinises what could make the transport and logistics sector increasingly ‘smart’ and highlights the barriers and commercial opportunities in a future IoT scenario. The large room was packed, but at frequent points you could hear a pin drop the audience were so attentive.

We were one of ten consortia coming together from across the UK to share our study learnings and the insights we’ve gained in this preliminary phase of work…

The pricing shift

Posted: 22nd June, 2012 | 0 comments

Interesting! According to an article in the latest edition of Harvard Business Review most companies' approach to pricing is 'antagonistic' to customers. Seeing pricing purely in terms of how to maximise revenues from each transaction, companies routinely put their customers' backs up, undermining relationships and, over time, their own businesses, warns pricing strategy expert Marco Bertini from London Business School.

Airlines offer a classic example of antagonistc pricing: a misleading headline price followed by extra, late-in-the-day charges for baggage, leg room, using a credit card, and so on. If you read economics textbooks this may be a perfect means…

Imagine a world where a company can refuse you a loan because your friends on Facebook have bad credit rating. When you get worse deals than others when buying online because a company has tracked your search patterns and know that you’re not much of a bargain hunter. You leave negative comments for a company on a review site and someone starts posting malicious information about you online which spreads like wildfire, leading to you losing your job.

These are just some of the problems that an increasing number of people could be facing in the digital age. This is…

WEF 'Tiger Team' meeting

Posted: 13th June, 2012 | 0 comments

Tomorrow a group of specially invited experts and leaders from across the emerging personal data landscape meet in London to discuss and review the latest outputs from the World Economic Forum’s Re-thinking Personal Data project. There will be contributors, who we have helped to bring together, from the telecoms, retail, financial services, media, advertising, government and technology sectors, comprising a mix of commercial, legal/policy and technical functions.

This international ‘Tiger Team’, managed by STL Partners with the support of other members of the Re-thinking Personal Data project team, will tackle some of the priority issues raised in WEF’s recent…

May 26 is an important date for UK websites and businesses. As from then, all businesses have to comply with the so-called Cookie law. The essence of this law is that users must be asked for their consent before cookies are used. We’ve wrestled with the practical implications of how to do this and this post sets out our thoughts.

Let’s get the important, but dull, points out of the way. The law is the law and you have to comply. We are neither lawyers nor experts so you shouldn’t assume these thoughts constitute legal advice. The law applies…

About a year ago, the World Economic Forum produced a report talking about personal data as 'a new asset class'. Some said it is 'the new oil' energising and greasing the wheels of the information age. But personal data isn't a traditional asset like oil in two critical respects.

First, when we collect, refine, process and use oil it has no feelings about that matter. But personal data - which is about persons - is different. Persons care about how their data is collected, refined and used and by whom. They want to have a say in the matter.

Second, the 'asset'…

The Intention Economy

Posted: 8th May, 2012 | 0 comments

“Customer power will be personal, not just collective. Each customer will come to market equipped with his or her own means for collecting and storing personal data, expressing demand, making choices, setting preferences, proffering terms of engagement, offering payments, and participating in relationships - whether those relationships are shallow or deep, and whether they last for moments or years. Those means will be standardised. No vendor will control them.”

This paragraph sums up the subject matter of Doc Searls' new book The Intention Economy - and the trend towards 'VRM' or Vendor Relationship Management.

I'll do a proper review…

Going it alone to search out and switch to a better deal is the orthodox route to better value in our energy, telecoms and financial services markets. Trouble is, trying to find a better deal in these markets can be like panning for gold: it’s difficult to know where to start, it’s time consuming, hard work and the chances of it paying off are slim. The mass consumer inertia that has come to characterise these markets is a predictable response to those high switching costs.

Is an alternative, straightforward route to better value now possible? One where an intermediary can…

PDS market worth £1bn

Posted: 1st May, 2012 | 2 comments

· New tools and services help consumers control their privacy and leverage personal data

· Significant commercial opportunity undetected by most businesses

· Global scramble for market leadership under way

A vibrant new market with a possible UK value of £1billion by 2016 is highlighted in our latest report.

Personal data stores can help individuals unlock the value from their data, whether it’s analysing electricity usage to check we’re on the best tariff, revealing how much we’re spending at certain retail outlets or keeping our personal information in a secure location under our control. Personal data stores (PDS) give consumers…

It’s an old economist’s saying that there is no such thing as a free lunch and in most cases this is true.

But there is one situation where it isn’t. If you can avoid or eliminate waste – i.e free up resources (time, money, materials) that were previously being eaten up doing something – then you may not be getting a free lunch but it’s pretty close to one: suddenly, miraculously, you have resources available when before you didn’t.

The good news is that our economy is riddled with waste. We therefore have a massive ‘free lunch’ resource liberation opportunity.…

The future of advertising

Posted: 20th April, 2012 | 0 comments

Interesting article on the BBC Technology web site (which, by the way, seems to be turning itself into an advertorial platform for big technology companies).

It’s called ‘Going Digital: The Future of Advertising’ and it’s by Andy Hart, general manager of Microsoft’s advertising and online division.

What’s fascinating, and puzzling, is what it doesn’t say as much as what it does. Here are the key sentences.
“The future of advertising isn't just about technology: people are also driving it (as they always have, of course, but in a far more profound and dynamic way than before).

There is now a healthy debate raging about the relative merits of Big Data versus Small Data, with some excellent stuff being written about the importance of small (i.e. personal) data.

Take these thoughts from Personal CEO Shane Green.

“Small data puts the power and tools of big data into the hands of people. It is based on the assumption that people have a significant long-term competitive advantage over companies and governments at aggregating and curating the best and most complete set of structured, machine-readable data about themselves and their lives – the “golden copy”. With proper tools,…

Google's slow-mo train crash

Posted: 10th April, 2012 | 0 comments

A fascinating letter to investors by Google CEO Larry Page. Here is a key passage:

“Understanding identity and relationships can also help us improve search. Today, most search results are generic, so two strangers sitting next to each other in a café will get very similar answers. Yet everyone’s life experiences are unique. We are all knowledgeable about different things; we have different interests and our preferences—for music, food, vacations, sports, movies, TV shows, and especially people—vary enormously.”

“Imagine how much better search would be if we added… you. Say you’ve been studying computer science for awhile like me,…

Is more data always better?

Posted: 30th March, 2012 | 4 comments

One of the pushbacks we get when talking to marketers about VPI (Volunteered Personal Information) goes like this: “Oh no! You are talking about yet another source of data. I’m already awash with data! In fact I’ve got so much data that I don’t know what to do with it! Now you are asking me to take on even more!”

In fact, what we are suggesting is something far more radical – and simple. Marketers find themselves awash with lots of useless data because they haven’t got the few special bits of data they really need.

To communicate effectively with…

Big Data or God Quest?

Posted: 27th March, 2012 | 0 comments

During the heydays of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) some companies began to suffer a dangerous delusion. Bedazzled by the enormous potential of the transaction and behavioural data they were now collecting (think Tesco Clubcard), they began to believe they were on the verge of knowing all they needed to know about their customers. Some even began to boast that they knew what their customers were going to do before the customers themselves.

They had fallen for the God Quest – the quest for omniscience. Perfect  customer information was just around the corner, they believed. With perfect information would come perfect…

Are You the Next Big Cash Crop?

Posted: 14th March, 2012 | 0 comments

The following is a guest post by Alan published yesterday by TVO a Canadian media organisation.

What are you? A human being or a vegetable?

Okay, it’s a silly question. But in the context of "Big Data," -- the collecting of massive amounts of online data by companies, advertisers and marketers -- it’s not that silly.

Consider some differences between a human being and a vegetable. A human being has some sort of ownership and control over their own assets, a vegetable doesn’t. The farmer grows cabbages, wheat or coffee, and appropriates what they produce. The coffee plant doesn’t have any say…

The value in Internet Of Things

Posted: 13th March, 2012 | 0 comments

The Internet of Things (IoT) revolution is already underway and machines are ‘talking’ to each other. Buildings, transport infrastructure, cars, healthcare equipment, industrial resources, mobile devices and even consumer goods are able to communicate, sense, analyse and produce useful information with the potential to completely transform how we live, work, travel and manage our lives. Growth estimates vary but according to Ericsson* there are 100 to 200 million connections today, growing to 1 billion over five years.

However, at the moment the full economic potential of the Internet of Things or the Machine to Machine (M2M) market is thwarted by lack…

Another step towards the control shift

Posted: 24th February, 2012 | 0 comments

The US Government’s planned new Privacy Bill of Rights marks a decisive moment in the control shift. The first clause and sentence effectively makes the first half of the control shift ‘official’. They read:

1 INDIVIDUAL CONTROL:  Consumers have a right to exercise control over what personal data companies collect from them and how they use it.

The only question now, is how far and how fast the control shift moves (the second, decisive, half being empowering individuals as managers of their own data).

One step forward …

Highly symbolic as it is however, the US Administration’s initiative is…

Big Data vs Small Data

Posted: 10th February, 2012 | 0 comments

In theory, there need not be a contradiction between Big Data and privacy. If you take a medical record, bank account or individual's mobile phone location data you can remove all personal identifiers (name, address, customer number, IP address, mobile phone identifier) so that all you have is a bundle of attributes which you can crunch together to identify patterns and trends *.

Having identified a pattern or profile you can then match it back to an individual's data, to place the person in a segment, to predict what they might do next, or perhaps offer them 'people like you'…

An inertia busting business model

Posted: 13th December, 2011 | 0 comments

Here is an interesting talk by Consumer Focus’ Richard Bates at the Government’s recent conference on Collective Purchasing.

The core idea is how to take universal human tendencies – such as being a tad lazy, and putting things off to tomorrow – and turn them into something that can be used to empower consumers rather than disempower.

The issue Richard tackles here is inertia. Each of us has to manage a range of accounts with a number of different suppliers: gas, electricity, phone, mobile phone, broadband, car insurance, home insurance, travel insurance, ISAs and other savings accounts, credit cards,…

Nigel Shadbolt, Chair of the Government’s midata programme, last week provided a robust response to Steven Robertson’s comments about the programme published in Retail Week. Steven, who is Director General of the Retail Consortium, commented in the article that, “The Government’s talking about phone and utility companies feeding cost and usage figures back to customers (don’t they do that already?). But it’s not at all clear exactly what data it believes retailers have and what it thinks can be done with that.”

Nigel in his response, published last Friday in Retail Week 'Letters to the Editor', makes it clear that the…

What a better decision looks like: 2

Posted: 3rd October, 2011 | 0 comments

In my last post on the personal decision-making revolution (sorry for the gap!) I talked about one aspect of what ‘a better decision’ looks like. A better decision leads you to a better outcome. (You might say, Well Duh! except for the fact that right now we have a massive trillion dollar marketing industry that invests close to 100% of its time trying to do the opposite).

The second element of ‘a better decision’ is a better decision making process. In fact, in a funny sort of way, this is probably the most important element, because it’s the better…

The penny begins to drop

Posted: 30th September, 2011 | 0 comments

It's lonely sometimes when something seems blindingly obvious to you but other people just don't seem to get what you are talking about. Over the last ten years, I've felt like that quite often when talking about personal data empowerment.

Now there's a little straw in the wind that others, such as Forrester, are beginning to get it.

They've just produced a new report which says that consumers' growing digital footprint and growing concerns about data security plus awareness that marketers are using this data for financial gain means that they "increasingly want to know when data about them…

What does a better decision look like: 1

Posted: 19th September, 2011 | 0 comments

So far in this series of blogs starting here, I’ve talked about ‘better decisions’ without actually defining what a better decision looks like.


When talking to people about it, most instantly assume I mean a more rational decision i.e. better price, better quality, better functionality, etc. The next step of the argument goes like this: “Ah! But people don’t really make decisions like that!”  For example, “people say they made this decision for this or that rational reason, but actually they were using gut feelings”.


So the first thing about a better decision is that it…

Anatomy of a decision

Posted: 8th September, 2011 | 0 comments


A chat with my Ctrl-Shift colleague Paul about his weekend illustrates much of what I’ve been saying about the market for decisions.


His story was pretty familiar: great weekend out in the country, awful traffic on the way home resulting in delay, kids getting restive in the back of the car. Paul and his wife realise they’re not going to get home in good time for dinner. So they get out the smart phone and find a place to eat in a local town which turns out to be great. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, a…

The opportunity of the century

Posted: 2nd September, 2011 | 0 comments

In her last blog, Liz suggested that the development of a new industry of Personal Information Management Services (PIMS) could be the way (or at least, one way) we avoid the prospect of decades of stagflation. Let’s flesh this argument out a little.


As often happens, when a massive untapped need meets a previously unrecognised economic potential, many people fail to see the scale of the opportunity. So I’ll stick my neck out. I think we on the foothills of the biggest ever consumer market and industry – an engine of innovation and growth that will keep…

Innovating out of stagnation

Posted: 31st August, 2011 | 0 comments

Innovating out of stagnation is the only way out of our current economic situation. Utilising and capitalising on the vast untapped wealth of information now available is one of the key areas for focus argues a succession of business thinkers. Enter the Control Shift.

One can look at the global economic situation and think that there is no hope for creating new opportunities and just to knuckle down, keep your head down and keep doing the same but with less. Or worse, to respond with the complacency that a few fiscal cuts and shoring-up the banks will be enough too…

Ariadne's Thread

Posted: 29th August, 2011 | 0 comments

In the Greek myth the only way Theseus can survive the dreaded Labyrinth is to rely on the thread given to him by Ariadne: a thread that lets him navigate the maze successfully. I think understanding the new market for decision support – helping individuals make (and implement) better decisions – is playing a similar role as we navigate our own maze: the confusing transition from an industrial to an information age.


Helping people make better decisions is rising to the top of the value food chain and changing the way markets work in the process. The ramifications seep…

An evolving market

Posted: 25th August, 2011 | 0 comments

Helping people make better decisions is becoming a new market in its own right: with the new tools and services, based on new types of business model, offering different types of value, and competing around different things. But just how big and important is this market?

Here are two ways of thinking about this question.

First, what proportion of the population need/want to make better decisions, and how often? Hmmm. That looks like everybody, every day – from the most trivial decisions to the most life-changing: a pretty big market in other words. (In fact, we’re looking at the…

The market that changes markets

Posted: 23rd August, 2011 | 0 comments

It really is textbook stuff: when the price of something goes down, effective demand for it goes up. The 'price' of decision-making is now plummeting, and demand for decision-support services is soaring. There are countless historical precedents. For example:

Within a space of ten years Henry Ford slashed the price of a car by more than 90%, he transformed a luxury market into a mass market and in doing so, ushered in the modern age of mass, industrial production.
In 1860, it would cost the average labourer ten hours work to buy one lumen of lighting (in the…

Markets’ very own climate change

Posted: 19th August, 2011 | 0 comments



For many years now, our view of human decision making has been that we are ‘rational’ creatures, assiduously collecting all the facts, sifting and weighing their relevance and relative importance, carefully assembling them into alternative options which we can evaluate in order to make a final decision that ‘maximises our utility’ (which can be defined by some sort of objective criteria).


20th century economists based their theories on such assumptions, and businesses and Governments believed what the economists told them. We now know this view has about as much credibility as other folk wisdoms such as the…

With cost savings firmly in their sights, the UK Government are paving the way for a wave of new services built around the individual and their data. There is a recognition by the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee that by enabling individuals to manage their own data Government in its various forms will create huge efficiency savings and improve the quality of the services offered through improving the quality of the data about the individual. In itself this is a massive opportunity for the UK to improve it's economy but when you add to that the fact that…

Gut feelings and choice tools

Posted: 27th June, 2011 | 0 comments




I was speaking about choice tools at a conference recently when someone asked what’s becoming a standard question: “you talk about all the different ways accessing and using information can help make better decisions, but people don’t make decisions like that. When push comes to shove they make their decisions on gut feeling: do I like/feel comfortable with this decision or not? If so, isn’t all this stuff about better uses of information pretty irrelevant?”.


I fluffed my answer then and I’ve fluffed it many times before -  it’s a very simple question requiring quite a…

Defining 'empowerment'

Posted: 3rd May, 2011 | 0 comments

I’ve been looking again at the new EU Barometer on Consumer Empowerment and I’m not impressed. It makes me realise how different definitions of empowerment can be. In my view, the EU’s definition of empowerment (see ‘Barometer Model’ below) is narrow to the point of misleading.


It focues on three broad pillars of empowerment: skills (such as the ability to calculate interest rates), awareness of legislation (e.g. money back guarantees), and behaviours (such as ‘reading terms and conditions’).


This definition of empowerment has three characteristics.


First, it is highly individualistic, pitting the individual against the organisation…

Marketing's future

Posted: 25th March, 2011 | 0 comments

Interesting little debate between myself (Alan Mitchell) and marketing profs Mark Ritson and Tim Ambler within the pages of the marketing press.

They've taken offence that I've said we need to reinvent marketing. At the heart of it lies what I see as a contradiction at the heart of the marketing project.

On the one hand, marketers say marketing is about identifying and meeting customer needs.

Then, in the same breath they say marketing is about changing customer attitudes and behaviours and influencing their decisions.

Within the current set-up this is an impasse because marketers probably want to…