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A review of the year in personal data…and Merry Christmas

Posted on: Monday 17th of December 2012

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 and innovation on many fronts – large corporates are realising the need for a different information-sharing relationship with customers, there is growing entrepreneurial activity fostering demand for new Personal Information Management Services and Government initiatives such as midata and the US Green Button initiative are progressing at a pace. Here are some of the significant milestones this year with links to the relevant news items taken from our Market Watch service.


We started the year with the Irish review of Facebook privacy practices (because Facebook’s European operations are based in Dublin) and its agreement to make changes to its privacy policy and practices.

Google started tailoring the search results it serves to its profile of the individual doing the searching.

The Green Button programme launched in the US. As of the end of this year, it’s reaching 11 million customers with a growing range of energy companies signing up. It really look like it’s gaining momentum.

The EU launched its radical new data protection proposals. Here is some Ctrl-Shift analysis of the strategic questions it raises.

The Next Web warned of ‘behavioural pricing: the consumer’s worst nightmare’. By the end of the year, the Office of Fair Trading had launched an investigation into the practice (prompted, in part, by Ctrl-Shift research into the subject for Consumer Focus).


Trip Advisor’s knuckles were wrapped over its inability to guarantee the authenticity of the reviews it posts.

The Obama Administration unveiled its Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, while browser suppliers bowed to pressure to include Do Not Track options into their browsers.

The app-provider Path’s practice of uploading the entire contents of its users’ address books onto its servers created new awareness, and scrutiny of apps’ uses of personal data.

The debate about personal data and privacy continued with stories in the media about the size of commercial data bases on consumers held by data brokers such as Acxiom and Target.


Google introduced its new privacy policy, combining data of individuals’ use of all its services – and immediately prompting an EU privacy investigation, which is still continuing.

A Gartner report suggested that personal clouds connecting many devices such as smartphones and tablets will replace PCs as individuals’ main mode of online behaviour by the end of 2014.


The UK Information Commissioner revealed research showing that UK citizens put concerns over the protection of personal data higher than concerns about unemployment, the NHS and education (but behind crime), according to the Inquirer.

The US based Respect Network launched the first, global, open standard trust network. New Development, Verification and Ecosystem partners are announced over the next few months.

Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the world wide web, called on people to demand their personal data to ‘usher in an era of new personalised services’.

Despite the challenging environment some start-ups offering specialist personal data services gained funding – such as MiiCard.


Scottish Power became the first company to start releasing data back to customers as part of the midata programme. Here’s an interview we did with Andrew Ward, Operations Director at Scottish Power, about its involvement in midata. By the end of the year, British Gas, First Utility, Marks & Spencer Energy had followed suit – with others planned for the New Year.

Facebook’s IPO took place. Its valuation is largely based on personal data the company holds.

The new ‘Cookie’ Directive came into force in the UK which requires organisations to gain consent for using cookies for collecting consumer information.

The World Economic Forum published its report ‘Rethinking Personal Data: Strengthening Trust’. It says, we need to “restore trust in the personal data ecosystem. Central to this dialogue is the inclusion of individuals, who play an increasingly important role as both data subjects and as data creators”.


Microsoft announced it will set Do Not Track as the default option on its Internet Explorer browser. Here is some Ctrl-Shift analysis of the move. Microsoft also moved into the digital wallet space, alongside Google and Apple to create – alongside contactless payment systems – a data-led revolution in banking services.


The UK Government announced plans to legislate on midata. After consultation, legislation is introduced into the House of Lords in November.


The media report on the rapid expansion of the ‘quantified self’ movement. Meanwhile, analysts report estimates of more than 25 billion network devices by 2020. There is ongoing commentary about the need for standards to ensure interoperability and the issues to overcome (including around collection/use of personal data) for the Internet of Things market to take off.

The sharing economy develops from people renting spare rooms to sharing cars and peer to peer lending and there is investment from VCs (see Wall Street Journal’s article ‘Thiel in Talks to Invest in Airbnb at $2.5 Billion Valuation’. Here is a link to some Nesta research about collaborative consumption.

Think tank Demos published the ‘Data Dialogue‘ highlighting changing consumer attitudes. It shows peoples ‘crisis of confidence’ about the way personal information is collected by government and commercial companies.


Tesco advertised for a ‘Product Manager: My Data’ post. The job ad reads: “The successful candidate will define the strategy to develop and support the deployment of Group-wide capability to deliver market-leading products and games which give our Clubcard customers simple, useful, fun access to their own data to help them plan and achieve their goals.” Here is some Ctrl-Shift analysis of the move.

Marketing Magazine reported on O2’s announcement of a digital dashboard for customers “sharing with them all the information we have about them, why we have it, what services it is used for”.

The Technology Strategy Board published a summary of ten projects looking at the potential and challenges of the Internet of Things.


SWIFT, the international payments network, unveiled a prototype of the Digital Asset Grid (DAG), an information logistics platform designed to enable secure, trusted information sharing between people, organisations and things. BT unveiled its own information logistics platform for retail, pharmaceutical and other supply chains. Ctrl-Shift contributed to both these significant projects: you can read our blog posts on the launch of the DAG here and BT’s new service here.

Ontario Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian’s White Paper on Privacy By Design and Emerging Personal Data Ecosystem (co-written with Ctrl-Shift) is a landmark shift in regulator thinking – towards positive solutions rather than simply pursuing ever greater restrictions.

UK Government announced winners of a contract to provide identity services to individuals seeking to prove their identity to government services online. This is a possible start to a new market for verified attributes online.


The Open Data Institute launched and start-ups such as Mastodon C are developing offering services using insights from the release of open data.

Marks & Spencer became the first retailer to back the midata project through its M&S Energy service.

Microsoft is experimenting with a Personal Data Dashboard enabling users to ‘View some of your online personal information. Exercise choices about how this information is used.’

There is a lot happening and there is real change in the air. 2013 is an opportunity to build on these developments. Click here to see our Timeline charting the events we foresee in the personal data market over the next five years.

Ctrl-Shift is focused on helping organisations embrace this changing personal data landscape. If you would like to  engage more closely with our work in 2013 you can subscribe to Ctrl-Shift to access all our ongoing research along with a bespoke analyst day. This will enable you analyse the market and to forecast when you need to act, benchmark where you are today and track progress, and engage your team around a vision for the future. If you would like to discuss this we’d love to hear from you and please get in touch.

Happy Christmas holidays!