Monday 19 November 2012

PRESS RELEASE: midata – time for BIS to answer the questions



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midata – time for BIS to answer the questions
19 November 2012
When midata was announced a year ago Rory Cellan-Jones, the BBC’s Technology Correspondent, asked “what's the catch for consumers and why is the government getting involved”? Good questions.
Lifestyle choices
... individual users were not yet being allowed to exploit all the information relating to them to make their lives easier. Armed with the information that social networks and other web giants hold about us, he said, computers will be able to "help me run my life, to guess what I need next, to guess what I should read in the morning, because it will know not only what's happening out there but also what I've read already, and also what my mood is, and who I'm meeting later on".
Thus Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the web, interviewed by the Guardian in April.
Slightly dotty, of course – your computer will know what mood you’re in? But the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) are trying to promote their midata initiative and it suits their purpose to say, in a press release the other day, that midata will allow consumers to “make better lifestyle choices”.
Even if it was true, what business would it be of the government’s?
None. If there’s a demand for lifestyle software, let the private sector provide it.
Economic growth
BIS also claim that midata would be “good for growth in the economy”. Strange, because at the 9 August 2012 midata open forum David Miller, a BIS economist, was asked how much midata would make the economy grow by and answered, it’s very difficult to say what the macro-economic effects of midata would be.
Banks, phone companies and energy companies already provide us with detailed statements, on-line and on paper, they have done for decades, and the economy isn’t growing. So what’s new about midata?
Personal data stores (PDSs)
Answer – PDSs, please see para.2.19, p.24 of BIS's midata 2012 review and consultation. BIS want us all to have PDSs, databases storing all of our transaction data, which can be processed to make our lifestyle choices for us and which identify us uniquely.
We wouldn’t be expected to maintain the PDSs ourselves. That would be the job of so-called “trusted third parties”, who would store all our personal data on the web, where it would be continuously updated by permanent links with all our suppliers.
What personal data? The BIS press release refers us to a document of theirs, A midata future: 10 ways it could shape your choices. The answer seems to be any contracts you have entered into, any warranties you have taken out, your driving licence, your educational qualifications, your CRB report, your bank accounts, the clothes you buy, your gas and electricity usage and your neighbours’ usage, too, your health records, entertainment preferences and favourite restaurants.
It’s an extensive set of data about you. midata may not help the economy to grow but, in the PDSs which it relies on, it would provide you with an on-line ID card.
Trusted third parties
Who are the third parties you’re meant to trust with all this personal data? Only one is regularly mentioned and most people will never have heard of it – Mydex – so what reason is there to trust it?
At the 9 August 2012 midata open forum Kirstin Green, a deputy director at BIS, mentioned that the chairman of Mydex sits on the BIS midata strategy board. To understand BIS’ midata proposal it helps to understand Mydex is therefore written with considerable authority, as is Making midata work for you.
Identity assurance
Actually, you may have heard of Mydex. You may have read the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) press release about the Identity Assurance Programme last week, Providers announced for online identity scheme. Mydex is one of the seven “identity providers” appointed for the UK last week by DWP. The idea is that in Whitehall’s new digital-by-default world, if you want to register for benefits, you need an identity provider to vouch for you, to say that you are you – a PDS is an ID card.
They couldn’t answer them last year. Let’s see if BIS can answer Mr Cellan-Jones’s questions now.

About David Moss
David Moss has worked as an IT consultant since 1981. The past 9 years have been spent campaigning against the Home Office's plans to introduce government ID cards into the UK. It must now be admitted that the Home Office are much better at convincing people that these plans are a bad idea than anyone else, including David Moss.
Press contacts: David Moss,


Gary Sharp said...

Of course, it's possible to have a PDS that DOESN'T tie your ID to your data. If I was looking for one, I'd look for the most anonymous one possible.

David Moss said...

Thank you for your comment, Gary.

If you want to register for Universal Credit, you'll have to choose one of the "identity providers" appointed by DWP.

Seven have been named and we're still waiting to find out who the reluctant eighth one is.

We don't have a clue yet whether most of these identity providers will support anonymity in their identity assurance service. Which is odd, given that 21 million accounts are meant to be "operational" by Spring 2013.

One identity provider – Mydex – subscribes to OIX, the Open Identity Exchange. Don Thibeau, Chairman and At-large Director of OIX, sits on the Board of Trulioo, a company dedicated to "real names".

So I wouldn't expect Mydex to support anonymity.

Not for Universal Credit or for any other proposed application of Whitehall identity assurance, such as the electoral roll.

And not for midata if that ever takes off.

Frugal said...

It's all very well midata "empowering the individual" (as I have recently read from all promoting it) but as has been the case for centuries, the goalposts are moved as often as new governments come into office.

Much of the midata info and consultation has been kept out of the mainstream media. Why?
I am uneasy about data mining now, with the move to internet phones so we can be monitored and tracked, where we in effect, now rent all our pics, texts, etc, from the mobile operator's cloud service, where it of course can be analysed and reports sold on for big money, of our info that used to be stored on our own mobile phones and their memory cards.
Then we are seeing the VRM/cloud for our business, services, etc.
Now with midata, we are told empowerment is it's watchword, but what happens to all our personal info held by government departments?

Not only can it never be secure, it is often held in countries where our relatively strict data protection laws do not apply.
As it is being held abroad by companies we know nothing about and are not scrutinised by the UK people, we can never be certain that those running the companies are not also funding the political parties of the UK.

Labour are currently running a switch & save energy mass switch campaign - using a dutch firm which state they specialise in VRM - immediately set alarm bells ringing for me, as labour state they are not being paid per switch, but refuse to answer questions about who does receive the commission payments for each switch, they also refuse to answer any questions on VRM. Not good.

For examples sake, what happens when medical records go online and our VRM box as it were, is open as a facebook profile to insurance companies due to our previous or present connections with them... do people seriously believe that we won't be hit in the pocket?

I read today about how an individual bought a car that has auto cloud breakdown chip in it, the beauty is that when the car breaks down, it auto tells the breakdown service connected to the VRM box and auto sends out someone to deal with it... a useful invention?
What happens a year or two down the line when these same chips send back mileage our car has done to our VRM box, and the insurance company we are with, reads our VRM box and sees that we stated we only did 12000 miles per year?
This year we did 14000, are we to then receive a bill to make up the policy difference? I can see it happening.

Knowledge is power and this whole escapade is supported by the three national parties in parliament.
It needs stopping once and for all.
Ironic that as I post, asda, tesco and morrisons (along with other major retailers and loyalty card issuers) are all exempt from the midata scheme, all three supermarkets refuse to comment upon it, which tells me they have lobbied the government for exemptions. It also tells me they have something to hide.

It is a disaster waiting to happen and it is wrong. Who or what political party will stand up to it?
Individuals are left on their own. An impossible position.
(apologies for the longwinded post)

David Moss said...

Frugal, no need to apologise for long comment, many of the concerns in which I share.

Some thoughts.

It's Whitehall in control, never mind governments changing.

"Empowerment" is a weasel word in Whitehall's mouth. I think it means "emasculation".

With you all the way on the problems of cloud computing.

As far as the supermarkets are concerned, they may have something to hide but equally their reluctance to join in with Whitehall's midata initiative might just be a distaste for uselessly increased costs and regulation.

It's Whitehall again that should be the object of our resentment, not the supermarkets.

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