What's the beef?
A personal data store is the software equivalent of an ID card ...
After all the promises
going back to the 20 September 2010 identity assurance meeting ...
going back to the 20 September 2010 identity assurance meeting ...
here we go again.
- There was a revealing moment at the 31 October 2011 identity assurance (IdA) meeting. Una Bennett, Head, Learner Records Service, did a presentation on the Skills Funding Agency's Learner Passport pilot project.
- Stay awake.
- Ms Bennett keeps lists of all the exams people have sat. It's a sort of National Identity Register of exam results. (Public money well spent? You be the judge.) Anyone too disorganised to do their own filing can always contact her to find out if they got a grade 4 in Latin O-level or a grade 5. Something like that.
- Which seemed to annoy William Heath.
- Mr Heath was at the meeting, together with other exhibitors/winners of Technology Strategy Board funding, when he laid into Ms Bennett. Your exam results, he implied, like every other fact about you, should be kept in personal data stores (PDSs) administered by Mydex, Mr Heath's company. And they would be, too, if it wasn't for the disgraceful fact that the Skills Funding Agency gets £40 million a year of public funds (Mr Heath's figure) and Mydex doesn't.
It's Thursday 3 November 2011, a year ago today and three days after the 31 October 2011 IdA meeting:
- the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) issue a press release, Government, business and consumer groups commit to midata vision of consumer empowerment,
- Ed Davey, the minister responsible at the time, publishes a post on the BIS blog, Giving consumers the midata touch, and
- Rory Cellan-Jones, the BBC's Technology Correspondent, asks the all-important questions, please see Midata: Will the public share government's enthusiasm?:
This is the first the world has heard of midata. (Why wasn't midata announced at the 31 October 2011 meeting? If anyone knows, please tell the rest of us.)
What's the catch for consumers and why is the government getting involved?"
midata is supposed to give consumers control over the way their personal data is used. BIS are unable to explain how midata will achieve that. It is not in their power to grant that control.
25 November 2011, and a consultancy called Ctrl-Shift publish a report, The new personal data landscape, repeating the unsupported claim that midata will give consumers control over their personal data and extolling the virtues of Mydex, a company specialising in PDSs (p.15):
Ctrl-Shift fail to mention in their report that Alan Mitchell, the strategy director of Ctrl-Shift, is also a director of Mydex, which he co-founded with William Heath, the chairman of Mydex who, at that time, is also a non-executive director of Ctrl-Shift, please see The case for midata – the answer is a mooncalf.
Personal Data Stores
The last year has seen a flurry of activity around the concept of personal data stores or personal data ‘vaults’ that help individuals collect and keep their own data safe, manage, analyse and use this data, and control how it is shared with other parties. Launches include Mydex and ...
Personal Data Management: Mydex
Mydex helps individuals collect, manage and share data under their control ...
It subsequently transpires that William Heath, chairman of Mydex, also owns 30 of the 106 shares in Ctrl-Shift and, further, that he sits on the strategy board for midata at BIS, please see Cribsheet below.
BIS is a client of Ctrl-Shift's, i.e. Ctrl-Shift are in the pay of BIS. And Mydex is in receipt of an unknown amount of the funds invested in the identity assurance industry – £14 million by the Technology Strategy Board and £10 million by the Cabinet Office – as announced at the 31 October 2011 IdA meeting.
There must be some doubt about the independence of Ctrl-Shift's consultancy advice. And Mydex begins to look like a creature of BIS and of the Cabinet Office, specifically the Government Digital Service (GDS). When Mydex speaks, it's not independent speech, it's just BIS and GDS speaking.
midata is supposed to be a voluntary scheme. That's back in November 2011. By July 2012 when BIS announce their midata consultation, it turns out that they're seeking statutory powers to force suppliers to comply with midata, please see the BBC's Midata project plan for compulsory customer data:
At the open forum held on 9 August 2012, BIS are unable to say how midata will expand the economy and they cast doubt on whether it would.
The new measures, likely to be included in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill currently going through Parliament, could become law next year.
5 September 2012, and the close connection between GDS's IdA, midata and Mydex is explained, please see To understand BIS' midata proposal it helps to understand Mydex and Making midata work for you. The connection with the US National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) is thrown in for good measure.
25 October 2012, and the nexus between midata, Mydex and GDS is mentioned for the first time on the GDS blog, see comments on Identity assurance for local government services and reference to personal data stores in the accompanying local government report.
3 November 2012, two hours ago as DMossEsq writes, William Heath releases a televised interview in which he makes the undefended claim that Mydex can save money for consumers and repeats the undefended claim that Mydex can cause the economy to grow.
It's a quite complicated picture. There is a map available. Cutting through the complexity, what's the beef?
A personal data store is the software equivalent of an ID card. Instead of being a piece of plastic in your wallet, it's a file on Mydex's computer. It's still an ID card.
After all the promises going back to the 20 September 2010 IdA meeting, the promises that the lessons had been learnt from the failure of IPS and their ID cards scheme, here we go again. Doom.
- Ctrl-Shift is a consultancy which has BIS as a client.
- BIS pays Ctrl-Shift and Ctrl-Shift issues independent reports saying what a good thing midata is.
- midata is a BIS initiative so the money is well-spent.
- Alan Mitchell is a director of Ctrl-Shift.
- William Heath used to be a director of Ctrl-Shift but he resigned.
- On the other hand, he retains 30 of Ctrl-Shift Ltd's 106 issued and paid-up ordinary shares, according to the 20 April 2012 annual return filed with Companies House. So he still has a chunky interest in the company.
- Ctrl-Shift had a turnover in the year to 31 March 2011 of £122,129 and made a loss of £30,136 according to the unaudited accounts.
- William Heath is the chairman of Mydex Data Services Community Interest Company, but not a director. Alan Mitchell is the strategy director. They have no shares in the company according to the 28 March 2011 annual return. All the 1,000 10p shares in Mydex are registered in the name of another director, Mr Iain Henderson.
- Mydex is a PDS company. It wants to administer people's PDSs. It wants to manage your on-line identity for you.
- Mydex made a loss in the year to 31 March 2011 of £2,117,212 but still has positive shareholders' funds thanks to a share options reserve. What that seems to mean is that when you do work for Mydex, you don't always get paid money, you may get share options instead.
- Mydex may or may not have been the recipient of some of the £14 million the Technology Strategy Board invested in the nascent identity assurance business and/or the £10 million Francis Maude put in.
- William Heath sits on the midata strategy board at BIS as Kirstin Green, a deputy director at BIS, told us at the 9 August 2012 open forum held as part of the public consultation on midata. At para.2.19 on p.24 of the consultation document you will see that midata depends on personal data inventories/stores.
- DMossEsq used to contribute to William Heath's Ideal Government blog.
- Remember The Bridge Over the River Kwai.
- If you find yourself wondering why you should hand over your PDS to Mydex, a company you've never heard of and have no reason to trust and which will store it on the web, in the cloud, where you will have no control over it, then you're just an obsessive personality who understands nothing about economic reality, you're a troll who perversely doubts that this is the route to economic growth and human perfection:
It’s no more helpful to obsess about identity than to obsess about privacy ... The area to focus on is data logistics ... the compelling reason to pursue better data logistics with user-driven services is saving money.
William Heath, 21 September 2010
midata also creates opportunities for new markets to develop where businesses help consumers use their data to make better consumption decisions and lifestyle choices.
BIS, Cabinet Office and the Behavioural Insights Team, July 2012