At last, everyone will have their own nanny ...
... with absolutely no interference from the state
To no fanfare at all, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) today named in a press release seven of the eight organisations selected to be the UK's first "identity providers".
The eighth organisation is presumably having second thoughts. As well they might.
The seven named winners are the Post Office, Cassidian, Digidentity, Experian, Ingeus, Mydex and Verizon.
This is all to do with identity assurance, without which nothing in the digital-by-default universe works.
Your identity will be provided henceforth by Digidentity (a Dutch PKI company – public key infrastructure), Ingeus (dedicated to getting the unemployed into work), Verizon (a US mobile phone network with no known presence in the UK), the Post Office, and/or three organisations you may dimly recall having heard of.
How did DWP come up with that list?
GDS are in charge, as they rarely fail to mention. It's GDS who will have made this peculiar selection, the Government Digital Service, they're six weeks late announcing it, we were supposed to know by 30 September 2012, and they're obviously still having trouble with No.8.
We were promised an "ecosystem" of private sector suppliers. The Post Office is not a private sector supplier. Cassidian and Experian earn a material portion of their income from UK government public sector contracts, and Mydex is funded to some extent by Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) and Cabinet Office grants, while its chairman sits on the BIS strategy board for midata.
What should you expect?
An organisation whom you have barely heard of and/or who doesn't know you from Adam will seek to register you. They will enrol you onto a database, asking for all sorts of footling documentation to prove that you are who you say you are and asking a lot of impertinent questions, from which they will create your "personal data store" (PDS). Then, if you apply for Universal Credit (UC), DWP may pay it to you, but only if the identity provider's computers assure DWP's computers that you are you. You have the choice – sign up with one of these identity providers or go without UC.
And for the rest of us?
Mydex think this is a big day. A "global milestone" they call it in The DWP ID assurance decision and the new personal data ecosystem, where Mydex insist on repeating their claims that they can grant everyone total control over their personal data and that midata will save money, a claim which BIS cannot defend.
What Mydex foresee is a day when your personal data store, your PDS, will advise you ... what to watch on television and ... whether to go out to dinner and ... what job to apply for and ... what to wear on holiday. At last, everyone will have their own nanny. Don't be surprised if Nanny also advises you to take out a phone contract with Verizon. Or reminds you to vote in next week's municipal elections in the Hague (Digidentity are Dutch, remember).
Don't believe it?
Take a look at this BIS press release, A midata future: 10 ways it could shape your choices:
1. Returns, receipts and repairs
Updated 5 February 2014:
It was August 2012 when A midata future: 10 ways it could shape your choices was published. Here we are, 18 months later.
In between, the midata Innovation Lab was established and produced five sample prototype apps that were meant to demonstrate the value and attraction of midata.
One of those apps, MI Finances is meant to help you manage your ... finances:
In case you can't read the four nuggets of advice, they say:
Nanny is on fine form.
- Save £70 a month by buying your own ingredients and cooking yourself. Your health may improve too!
- Do your grocery shopping online and save £14 per month on fuel
- You're having an average of 4 takeaways a month. Why not make it a special treat? Cut down to once a month and save £100
- You're not using your overdraft facility but you're using an expensive credit card. Save £45 a month in interest and cut up that card!
One of the five prototype apps designed to demonstrate the virtues of midata is MI Relative Calm. It's a fine example of what happens when the "quantified self" that Ctrl-Shift and Mydex embrace meets a human being – the human being loses. That may be the answer to William Heath's scandalised question yesterday. Mr Heath is the chairman of Mydex:
Why would Cabinet Office do an elaborate consultation about data sharing policy without putting personal stores in the frame? #baffling
It's nearly two years since the post above was published. It is still unclear how Mydex can grant control over the way your personal data is used. And it is still the case that the public has yet to see identity assurance in action. Trust in its existence is beginning to wane.