Thursday 16 May 2013

midata and the South Sea Bubble

"Insolvency" has been much on our lips for the past five years and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) maintains a useful website to teach us all about it.

In 1720, with the national debt standing at £30 million, the government borrowed £7 million at 5 percent p.a. from the South Sea Company so that it could carry on a war with France and granted the company in return a monopoly over trade with South America.

The company's share price promptly went through the roof, inspiring the famous Bubble – people went mad investing in useless businesses thinking they were guaranteed to make a fortune. At the height of the mania, BIS tell us:
A company was promoted “For carrying-on an undertaking of great advantage but no-one to know what it is”. After receiving £2,000 from subscribers the promoter emigrated.
No-one knew what they were going to get but they handed over £2,000 anyway. That could never happen now.

Here we are 293 years later and BIS operate 'Craig Belsham's midata blog', to which one Stephen Childerstone has contributed a post, How we are working to protect consumer’s data. (Good luck with that, Mr Childerstone.)

And what do we find?
A data-enabled online market place will create new services that will take your data and do some really interesting things with it.
What "new services" and what "really interesting things"? midata looks like nothing so much as a latter-day "undertaking of great advantage but no-one to know what it is". None of us knows what we're going to get but we're expected to hand over our personal data anyway.

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