BIS – abandon midata as a bad job. Now.
Is it safe? Yes or no?
In their 3 November 2011 press release Government, business and consumer groups commit to midata vision of consumer empowerment, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) said:
Now, 14 months later, we are still none the wiser how midata would "empower" consumers.
The following consumer groups and regulators are working with midata to represent consumers' interests and concerns. As well as working towards potential benefits, their input plays an important role in identifying potential risks and helping determine how these can be addressed:
- Citizens Advice
- Communications Consumer Panel
- Consumer Focus
- Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)
- Office of Fair Trading (OFT)
If the regulators in the list above had succeeded in their task, then no-one would be considering midata. We are still none the wiser how midata could succeed where the regulators have failed.
Jo Swinson MP is the Minister responsible for midata and she posted an article on the Which? blog last month, What if companies gave me control of my data?. What indeed. We are still none the wiser how midata could give consumers control of their data. That control depends on changes in the law worldwide and those changes are not in BIS's gift.
What about Which? themselves? The Consumers' Association. Where do they stand on midata?
The Which? response to BIS's midata consultation opens by saying that midata is a good idea and then spends several pages describing the dangers of identity theft which would be exacerbated by midata. So which is it? Are they in favour, or not?
As you would expect from the most respected consumer group in the country, with 56 years of worthy service behind them, Which? run a commendably open blog. And in one of the comments on the Jo Swinson article Which?'s in-house lawyer, Georgina Nelson, highlights the risks associated with midata and says (17 January 2013 at 11:40 am):
The title of BIS's 3 November 2011 press release is misleading. Which?, at least, are not "committed to the midata vision". Their support is, quite rightly, contingent.
Our position has always been that our support for the midata programme is contingent upon addressing these issues.
It's up to BIS to demonstrate that midata would be safe. Failing that, Which? can't support it.
It's hard to imagine that anyone else could support it either.
So – question: can BIS demonstrate that midata would be safe for consumers? Yes or no? They can't tell us how it would empower us or how it would give us control over our data but can they at least convince us that midata would be safe?
If not, perhaps BIS would like to abandon midata as a bad job now and promote consumer empowerment in some effective way.
Which? could no doubt make several suggestions how BIS could spend their time and our money better.