Monday, 8 July 2013

midata and the BBC. The BBC?

from Craig Belsham's midata blog:
Hi I’m Dan, Director of the midata Innovation Lab, part of the midata voluntary programme ... we will help empower UK consumers in a really meaningful way ...
The BBC are not paid to talk twaddle with a lot of armchair economists.
They are wasting our money,
they shouldn't have joined in the first place
and they should resign from mIL now.

Following last week's exciting launch of the midata Innovation Lab (mIL), now that the party's over, let's take a look at the structure of the organisation. It's a partnership apparently, "a collaboration of the following 22 Founding Partners, respected organisations collaborating with real data to work out how the UK both empowers and protects consumers whilst innovating with data":


Back in November 2011, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) issued a press release saying:
Businesses and organisations that have so far committed to working in partnership with Government to achieve the midata vision are:
- Avoco Secure
- billmonitor
- British Gas
- Callcredit
- EDF Energy
- E.ON
- Garlik
- Google
- Lloyds Banking Group
- MasterCard
- Moneysupermarket.com
- Mydex
- npower
- RBS
- Scottish Power
- Scottish Southern Energy
- The UK Cards Association
- Three
- Visa
That's 19 businesses from Avoco Secure to Visa, of whom only three remain "committed to working in partnership with Government to achieve the midata vision". Why have the other 16 dropped out?

The press release also said:
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)
- OFCOM
- Office of Fair Trading (OFT)
- Which?
That's seven consumer groups/regulators, of whom only two are left. Why have the other five pulled out?

And why are there still 22 Founding Partners left?

What, for example, is the University of Southampton doing on the list?

Their expertise is in oceanography. Nothing to do with midata.

The answer is all to do with the Open Data Institute (ODI), who are also on the list of Founding Partners. The ODI is headed by Professor Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt. They are both professors at Southampton and presumably the university has come along for the ride.

But they shouldn't be there. The ODI is all about open data. Public data. The opposite of what midata is meant to be about, which is personal data. Private data. The two should not be confused. Nigel Shadbolt himself says so:



But there they are, the ODI and Southampton and, what's more, Professor Shadbolt is chairman of the midata programme as well as chairman of the ODI. This is a mess.

The inclusion of O2, Telefonica and Verizon among the founding partners makes a bit of midata sense. The idea behind midata is that consumers should be able to get better value from their phone contracts. Ofcom have failed to ensure good value for money. Having O2, Telefonica and Verizon involved will help to make sure that midata fails as well.

The link between midata and the Government Digital Service's failed Identity Assurance Programme (IDAP) isn't always obvious to other people but readers of this blog will remember that Verizon is one of the UK's eight appointed "identity providers".
from Craig Belsham's midata blog:
My name is Stephen and I head up the work on consumer confidence and trust which is part of the midata voluntary programme ... A data-enabled online market place will create new services that will take your data and do some really interesting things with it ...
They will also remember that, thanks to Edward Snowden, we now know that Verizon hands over its data to the US National Security Agency (NSA), who may or may not share it with the UK's GCHQ. Your personal data may travel via midata even further than Southampton.

The idea behind midata is (also) that consumers should get better value for money from their gas and electricity contracts. It is precisely because Ofgem have failed on that score (along with the Prime Minister) that BIS assert that midata is needed. Having Ofgem and npower on board – as oceanographers say – will ensure that midata fails as well.

midata is meant to help consumers to get better value for money from their current accounts and their debit/credit cards. That's a job MoneySupermarket.com already work at and have done for years which, in turn, is another reason why midata is unnecessary.
from Craig Belsham's midata blog:
I’m Richard and I chair one of the expert working groups looking at what we need to do to ensure that consumers can be confident when they allow their data to be passed to and used by third parties who are developing new and innovative applications to aggregate and use existing data in a way that brings benefits to users of these new services ... A data rich economy will allow lots of innovative companies to create brand new services that will enable you to take your data and do some really interesting things with it ...
The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) exists to ensure that personal data remains private and that public data is disclosed unless it is exempt under the Freedom of Information Act. If the ICO doesn't close down mIL in the next few days, then it's not doing its job.

Mydex provides personal data stores (PDSs). midata relies on PDSs. That's the way BIS have designed it with the assistance of the midata strategy board. The chairman of Mydex is a member of the midata strategy board. BIS also retain Ctrl-Shift as consultants to advise them on midata. Ctrl-Shift advise BIS to use Mydex and, as readers of this blog know, Alan Mitchell, the director of Ctrl-Shift, set up Mydex with William Heath, the chairman of Mydex, the one who is also a member of the midata strategy board, and Mr Heath used to be a director of Ctrl-Shift and he retains a material shareholding in Ctrl-Shift, so you can understand why BIS, Mydex and Ctrl-Shift are among the Founding Partners of mIL.

Also, of course, Mydex is a UK-appointed  "identity provider", like Verizon, reinforcing the link to IDAP.

Jo Swinson is the successor at BIS to Norman Lamb who was the successor to Ed Davey. She wrote an article about midata which was published by Which?, who hosted a lengthy debate about the article on their website – 54 comments. No-one – including Which? – could see how midata would deliver the benefits that Jo Swinson and BIS promised.

Norman Lamb published a report on midata and launched a consultation on it. Question 6 of the consultation is: "What types of new services might be offered by intermediaries (such as, price comparison websites) and what could be the value of this new market?". In their response, Which? said, in full: "Which? has no comment on this question".

On the other hand, they wrote several pages in their response about the dangers of identity theft/fraud and the dangers of the loss of privacy. Are Which? satisfied that these dangers will not be exacerbated by midata? If so, why? And if not, will they, like the ICO, do their job of protecting consumers and warn people against midata?

In the case of all the Founding Partners named so far you can see why they are included in mIL. Even if, like the ODI, they shouldn't be.

But the BBC? What are the BBC doing there? They're a public service broadcaster. That's what the licence fee payers pay them to do. The BBC are not paid to talk twaddle with a lot of armchair economists. They are wasting our money, they shouldn't have joined in the first place and they should resign from mIL now.

When Ed Davey first announced midata, the BBC's own technology correspondent, Rory Cellan-Jones, asked "what's the catch for consumers and why is the government getting involved?". To which we may now add, why is the BBC getting involved?

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