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midata: set to speed up the control shift

Posted on: Tuesday 31st of July 2012

The Government has announced its intention to give consumers the statutory right to obtain an electronic copy of data companies hold about them, so that they can use this data for their own purposes. This is a game changing move, dramatically extending the reach of the midata programme from its previous focus of energy, banking and telcos to, potentially, all major companies holding customer data.

Ongoing debate

Some companies are likely to react negatively, arguing that the new right would be a ‘burden on business’. But the Government is rightly linking the move closely to a growth agenda. Introducing the consultation Consumer Minister Norman Lamb comments, ‘The Government wants to unlock the huge potential that the midata programme has revealed and give the UK the chance to be at the forefront of this emerging market.”

“New models and applications are appearing all the time,” he continues. “If a truly useful dataset is made available, there is no shortage of innovators able to devise new uses for it or people eager to make use of new applications.”

Ctrl-Shift’s own research suggests that midata-enabled digital data sharing between individuals and organisations is a huge innovation opportunity – with a ‘win win win’ outcome for individuals, businesses and the economy. New personal information management services (PIMS) that help individuals manage and use their data to manage their lives better will become as ubiquitous and pervasive as electronic devices are today. These services could transform every aspect of organisations’ customer-facing activities including market research, marketing, sales and customer services.

Extending midata

Why is extending midata a good move? On a purely practical front, giving individuals a statutory right to obtain a copy of their data in electronic form creates a level playing field for all companies.

For individuals, it provides the chance to gain the same benefits from data use as companies – insights into their own behaviour, and to make better decisions and manage aspects of their life more efficiently and effectively. Research* shows there is strong consumer demand for the services new uses of personal data make possible.

For businesses, there is a chance to reinvent their relationship with customers. In Ctrl-Shift’s experience, the first time the idea of returning customer data back to customers is floated, many businesses throw their hands up in horror. “This data is ours!” they say. “We’ve spent a lot of time and money collecting it and the insights it generates are key to competitive edge.” But the more they think about it the more they see a windfall opportunity: to re-use the same data to build better, more trusting information sharing relationships with customers and to create new engaging and value-adding information services for them. Seeing data from a different perspective – as a tool in the hands of the customer – opens new opportunities which have the potential to outweigh the immediate costs.

For the economy, consumer empowering PIMS will create new jobs and taxes, helping competitive markets work better, and unleashing the potential of personal data as an economic asset by encouraging the participation of consumers as producers of information as well as consumers of products and services.

International momentum

This focus on personal data as an asset isn’t just happening in this country. As Norman Lamb notes, ‘Throughout the world a shift is already occurring towards a different approach to personal data, which recognises the value of data to the consumer as well as to business.” There is the US ‘Smart Disclosure’ programme, the revised EU DPA with its Clause 18 concerning giving customers the right to their customer data, and the work currently being undertaken by WEF with their ‘Re-thinking personal data: strengthening trust’ report and international working groups.

This presentation midata-state-of-the-nation reports on progress of the midata programme and next steps.

We’ve also written a short briefing paper ‘The Economic Case for Consumer Empowerment’. If you would like a copy please get in touch.

* Research conducted for midata suggests that while most consumers are not immediately attracted to the idea of managing their own personal data, there is strong demand for the services new uses of personal data make possible.