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July newsletter – mydata, ID Assurance briefing and the cookie law

Posted on: Tuesday 26th of July 2011

In this month’s issue we highlight our new briefing paper on the government’s Identity Assurance programme, give an update on progress with mydata,  and cover the knotty issue of informed consent. This is all followed by a quick round-up of some interesting market news

Identity Assurance

Instead of establishing a huge, centralised National Identity Scheme, the aim of the government’s Identity Assurance programme is to establish a decentralised market of competing private sector identity providers. Each will provide an identity assurance service, so that public sector and other providers can be confident of the identity of the person they are dealing with.

Both this programme and mydata are taking a radical person-centric approach. The government is making a decisive move to put the consumer in the driving seat and by doing so expect to create innovation and cost saving opportunities.

To read our briefing paper on Identity Assurance click here.


The government’s mydata programme is gaining good momentum. This week members of the mydata Working Group, including large corporations from both energy and finance sectors and representatives from consumer groups and regulatory organisations, met for a workshop. Organisations from the telecoms and retail sectors meet next week.

First on the workshop agenda was the mydata Charter and principles for all participating organisations to sign up to. These were agreed in outline and will now be honed and finalised before being published in the autumn, with, hopefully, at least 20 companies signed up.  A formal announcement is planed for October.

There’s a lot of work to be done over the next few months. The initial projects include making an inventory of the main types and fields of data held by companies on consumers, and starting the process of revolutionising subject access requests with participating organisations making personal data available to consumers. If you want to read our briefing paper on mydata click here.  If you want to talk to us about the mydata opportunities for you, please get in touch.

The knotty question of informed consent

How can the current practice of informed consent be improved? What should it look like, and what characteristics should it have? These are tricky questions and ones we’re thinking hard about.

The current approach to informed consent is that as long as something is said somewhere, no matter how buried it is, in small print or in obfuscatory language, then the individual is deemed to have given it. From the individuals point of view of course, it’s not even worth looking for or reading the small print because there’s nothing you can do about it anyway. You either buy/use and tick the box, or you forgo the value that is being offered. There is no negotiation or influence. Only take it or leave it.

There is a real need for some creative thinking about this. Informed consent is central to: mydata (when it comes to individuals sharing released data with service providers do they know exactly what they are sharing, how valuable it is, what the dangers or risks are?); the new e-privacy directive (which requires individuals to give consent before a cookie is placed on their terminal); and the debate about behavioural targeting (is the ability to click on an icon, read the small print, and then choose to opt out the same as informed consent?).

We’re currently researching the so-called cookie law. Please get in touch if you think you’ve tackled the issue. We expect to publish next month, so watch out for this.

Market news

In line with our interest in informed consent, we’ve noticed ESOMAR, the organisation for encouraging, advancing and elevating market research worldwide has published guidelines on social media research. The essence of the code is that people’s details can only be reported in an identifiable form with the individuals permission.

Elsewhere in the news, Give Me My Data is a new Facebook application that helps users export their data out of Facebook for reuse in visualizations, archives, or any possible method of digital storytelling. Data can be exported in common formats like CSV, XML, and JSON as well as customized network graph formats.

Callcredit have launched a new service called Noddle to release credit scores back to individuals free, on an ongoing basis. Previously it provided these credit scores to suppliers as part of a business to business service.  Individuals can use these credit scores to pre-screen products and services they apply for.

Lastly we want to highlight some interesting research from Reevoo regarding how social media has transformed the way people buy. They found that with so many more sources of information, consumers are now spending a lot more time researching purchases but that only a small fraction of this is spent on retailers/brands own websites. Social information sources, such as recommendations from friends or consumer reviews, are now the most important influences. Nearly 40% of respondents use Facebook for research.