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Personal control over personal data

Posted on: Thursday 7th of August 2014

When it comes to personal data, we are increasingly seeing evidence that consumer confidence in organisations is low. Recent research published by the Royal Statistical Society finds that only 4-7% of respondents asked said they had a high level of trust in media, internet, telco and insurance companies.

This changing consumer attitude is one factor catalyzing a new market for Personal Information Management Services (PIMS) that put individuals in control of their personal data. One example is Mydex, a community interest company that offers a platform for users to capture, organise and take control of their personal data.

Mydex has been recently been certified as the first Market Research Society Fair Data enabler. This means they help other organisations achieve the Fair Data accreditation, showing that they handle their customers’ personal data fairly. We spoke to Mydex CEO David Alexander about the business and its role in the emerging personal information economy.


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

Fortunately we benefit many stakeholders in several different ways, so let me break that down for you.

If you are an organisation with customers, consumers, citizens, members, call them what you will, regardless of sector, we: save you money, increase trust, reduce risk, increase loyalty and improve engagement and the lifetime value of the relationships you have with them. We do that in a number of ways, trusted digital identity, two-way data exchange of a rich range of personal data through to management of permission and consent.

If you are an innovator or personal apps developer seeking to add value to organisations or individuals we provide you with a scalable, secure platform with rich API’s and services that enables you to focus on delivering value and take away all the boring, but hard stuff around data management, identity services, scalable API’s and compliance. On short you can deliver fast, more effectively and for less money and risk. If you are a startup this makes a huge difference. If you are already a scale provider it gives you value, strips out costs, and reduces risks.

If you are an individual then you get something for life; a portable digital ID that works across all aspects of your life; that does not bleed privacy and information out about you. With Mydex you get a set of core tools for the capture, collection, storage, organisation, analysis and redistribution of your personal data about almost any aspect of your life.

If you are a regulator working for consumers or to ensure markets remain well regulated we make it easier because we ensure transparency and protection for the individual, providing the tools they need to collect evidence and audit of their lives online so that they have their own version of the truth, are independent and empowered.

If you are a government trying to drive economic growth, cut out red tape and cut the costs of public services all the while ensuring that inclusion is assured for all, then we provide a place that is neutral, safe, and secure on which policy can be enacted.

What inspired/motivated your business?

The steady realisation that, without tools to help individuals take control of their lives, the digital economy would falter and eventually the blockage in the flow of data would stifle innovation. Individuals themselves would be cut out of the loop and be just the subject of transactions – the mechanical turk feeding the corporate machine and not an active participant. We saw this crown of thorns developing in which individuals were being asked to give more and more information and let it be shared widely with little or no control. It wasn’t good for anyone but no one could solve the problem because it affected everyone.

We saw how a new form of company as envisaged in the UK, a community interest company, could be formed and act for the individual. A neutral place and with the tools the individual needed, and the platform and trust framework, that would make it fair to all. Here the individual becomes the centre of the data movement and control, everyone benefits and it is low cost to do. The CIC structure was the only way it could work from what we could see, it was all about Trust, everyone had to trust the platform, individuals and organisations. It had to take itself out of the game and create the place where it could all happen safely and securely. We felt this would create a halo of trust for the individual and everyone involved.

What is the business model? How do you/will you earn your keep?

Our focus is sustainability as a community interest company and easy access for all where individuals, the community we service, pay nothing and give up nothing to use this service which is totally free to them. We operate a simple pay as you go model where organisations pay a low cost initial connection fee per service, they connect to the Mydex Platform and then simply pay per customer they connect to whether for personal data or identity services.

That initial connection fee then becomes an ongoing annual support fee from year 2 onwards of about 4 pence per year per customer which, when you consider the price of stamp, is an amazingly low figure. We wanted to make sure the platform was open to any organisation.

If an organisation either charges the individual for their service or pays an individual for their data we charge the organisation a small % transaction fee as well, but we never charge our members, as they are the community we serve.

Where would you like to be in 3-5 years’ time?

Continue to grow rapidly, serving millions of members, connected to thousands of organisations and apps with millions of transactions flowing across the platform as data moves freely under the control of the individual. Achieving that financial sustainability and position of neutrality open to all is fundamental to ensuring individuals have a safe and secure place to store the data about their lives, organise it and use it to get things done online by sharing under their control.

What obstacles will you need to overcome to get there?

Fear of consumer empowerment, fear of disruptive innovations that shift the balance of control away from organisation centric models to a more balanced one. Ignorance and lack of understanding about how far into the personalisation of human experience we already are and how much individuals already understand the need for a more person centric solution to managing their lives.

We are doing the hard bit first, we built the platform, we got ourselves certified independently and we are going out to secure connections to our platform with serious organisations with millions of customers who want to rebuild trust and extend their engagement and value to their existing customers. That takes patience, perseverance and a passion for innovation and above all being the voice of the individual. We have to make a solid business case and speak the language of business and technology fluently. We are serious people doing serious work. It is challenging for sure but it is worthwhile; it benefits everyone.

Have there been any recent developments in your business/market?

Trusted digital identities are becoming a vital component of getting things done, there is an explosion in what is being called the API economy or the App economy where data is being moved around at light speed and individuals are more and more interested in understanding their lives and getting things done online.

Mydex is proud to have been selected as one of the Identity Providers to the UK population in the Identity Assurance service being launched this year by the UK government, we had to go through a formal procurement and make 2 years of investment to get where we need to be an ISO27001 certified company, a member of tScheme and only this month a Fair Data Certified company and the world’s first certified Fair Data enabler. It is an independent certification run by the Marketing Research Society and we are proud to be the first.

What was your key learning from our recent Personal Information Economy 2014 event?

The private sector remains in love with personal data and the acquisition of it, they have yet to understand the true value of sharing that data about their customers back with their customers. There is real fear of loss of control of the customer, but also a real desire to restore trust and secure a deeper engagement with their customers. They are all faced with the challenge of servicing the omni channel desires of their customers and we believe that individuals equipped with the right tools such as personal data stores and trusted portable digital identities can make that happen a lot faster than the traditional organisation centric approach.

Have you got any more general thoughts or views about the personal information economy you would like to share?

Simply put, the personal information economy is here, it’s been here for a long while and some of the biggest organisations in the world have derived their huge valuations and profits from it. What is happening is that the world is waking up to the real opportunities and the risks and that is causing a mixture of excitement and fear in traditional brands and venture capitalists. As Ctrl-shift reported recently there is a new app or service announced every week. So people can see the money and the potential for profit.

Mydex CIC is not here to take that sort of investment, it’s not compatible with our mission. But we are here to ensure the individual has a neutral safe place from which to work with these innovators and brands that is independent and not driven by the lure of a trade sale for billions.

Someone has to be there for the individual, Mydex CIC stands ready, after all personal control over personal data is good for everyone.