Sunday, 8 December 2013

midata in the UK, MesInfos en France

300 individus volontaires ont accès à leurs données personnelles restituées par les organisations partenaires du projet via une plate-forme personnelle de données sécurisée.
Do what?

Look mate, it's French. Alright?

It means something like "300 volunteers have access to their personal data given back to them by partner organisations in the project via a secure personal data platform".

What project?

Project MesInfos, in French, or midata in pidgin English.

Norman Lamb mentioned it when he launched last year's non-consultation into midata, p.22, para.2.15:
In France the FING think tank has created the ‘Mesinfos’ group to look at developments in personal data and is hoping to run a pilot whereby a range of different datasets from the private sector are available to explore the opportunities for new applications and services.
Yes, they've got it, too, the French – midata – a bad dose:
Une communauté de développeurs et designer est mobilisée pour concevoir des applications et services innovants autour de ces données, ouvrant un nouveau champ d’usages pour les individus.
Or as we would say, roughly: "a community of developers and designers has been mobilised to conceive of innovative applications and services around personal data, creating a new utilities space for individuals".

And whereas we in the UK have Ctrl-Shift, the "market analyst and consulting business that helps organisations understand the implications and embrace the opportunities arising from the changing personal data landscape", over the water there in France they have Fing:
La Fing, coordinateur du projet, est un think tank de nouvelle génération qui aide les entreprises, les institutions et les territoires à anticiper les mutations liées aux technologies et à leurs usages.
Fing is "the co-ordinator of the [MesInfos] project, it is a new generation think tank helping businesses, institutions and local authorities to prepare for adaptations in technology use", least I fink that's what it says.

Oh lord. The poor old French being served up the same tosh as us Britanniques.

Do Ctrl-Shift and Fing really think we've never seen a bank statement before? Or an itemised phone bill? Do they think our pockets aren't already stuffed with detailed receipts from Sainsbury's and E. Leclerc? What are they talking about, suppliers refusing to give us our data back? It's nonsense. They're trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist.

And they're not very good at solving even non-existent problems. Either of them. midata or MesInfos. They say they're going to create a personal data apps market. We've already got one. Yea, verily, Google's power stretches even unto France. (And Google is one of the MesInfos project partners.) They're too late to provide a solution, the market already has.

Faites attention, MesInfos, not to make the same mistake as the midata Innovation Lab, and produce five dreary apps that no-one wants.

They promise us control over our personal data:
MesInfos propose une voie nouvelle, différente : faire en sorte que les individus puissent (re)trouver l’usage des données qui les concernent, à leurs propres fins.

Du point de vue des individus, il s’agit d’une nouvelle étape dans l’empowerment numérique.
That's Fing today echoing Ed Davey two years ago:
Today’s announcement marks the first time globally there has been such a Government-backed initiative to empower individuals with so much control over the use of their own data.
And it's just as hollow today as it was then. It is beyond the power of Fing to grant French consumers control over their personal data. Just as it is beyond the power of Mydex in the UK. So why do they make these ridiculous promises? You can ask them till you're bleu dans le visage, they can't answer the question how will you provide this control?

They both promise secure websites. A "plate-forme personnelle sécurisée" from Fing and a "hyper secure personal data store and platform" from Mydex. And what do we know about secure websites? They don't exist. Like unicorns.

In the UK the idea is that personal data stores should provide the basis on which "identity providers" can vouch that you are who you claim to be when you deal with government on-line. The personal data store is like a dematerialised ID card.

Is the same true in France?

Someone asked.

And Renaud Francou of Fing answered.

Who he? Answer, "Renaud Francou, 32 ans, a rejoint l’équipe Fing en 2003. Il anime depuis Marseille avec Charles Népote le programme Identités actives (2007-2009) et participe à l’animation du dispositif PACA Labs destiné à soutenir les projets expérimentaux en région Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur."

According to M. Francou:


So there we have it. Yes, he says, a MesInfos personal data store is an ID card. But a nice white one. Not a nasty black one. (You can say that in France. Presumably.)

Anyone remember Serge Blisko? Good luck, M. Francou, if MesInfos comes to his attention.

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Updated 18 December 2013:

The UK has midata. France has MesInfos. And the US? MyData.

MyData is in the purlieu of the Presidential Innovation Fellows: "The Presidential Innovation Fellows (PIF) program pairs top innovators from the private sector, non-profits, and academia with top innovators in government to collaborate during focused 6-13 month 'tours of duty' to develop solutions that can save lives, save taxpayer money, and fuel job creation".

You know what to look for now in these personal data schemes.

And it's all there in MyData.

"Empowering the American people with secure access to their own personal health, energy, and education data." Empowering? In what way? Secure access? Shouldn't that be hyper secure?

"... spurring the growth of private-sector applications and services that a person can use to crunch his or her own data for a growing array of useful purposes." The private sector applications and services market has already been spurred.

What is this array of useful purposes? Is it a 2013 echo of the South Sea Company's 1720 "undertaking of great advantage but no-one to know what it is"? Is it like midata's equally imprecise "data-enabled online market place [that] will create new services that will take your data and do some really interesting things with it"? What really interesting things?

The only distinguishing feature of the Presidential Innovation Fellows' MyData initiative is that when it says "Stay connected: Follow @ProjectMyData on Twitter" and you click on  @ProjectMyData, you see this Twitter page:


All those top innovators? 13-month tours of duty? Saving lives? Saving money? Creating jobs? All those questions, and the answer's "that page doesn't exist"? The PIFs' heart's not really in it, is it?

Updated 23 December 2013:

You know about midata in the UK and MesInfos in France. Also MyData in the US. Dull, dull, dull.

But what, you ask, of India?

And the answer, typically, is far wiser and more human: "Midata is a Telugu Movie. Main Cast: Srikanth and Namitha. Music Composed by Yatish".

3 comments:

Renaud Francou said...

Hi Dave.
I'm afraid my english is too laborious to answer clearly to your post - but I can try. 

You seem to believe that the battle is lost before it has begun, with big companies that have already displayed their rules and tool. It is, probably, in a sense. But we do believe that there are other ways to imagine, in order to help people take charge their lives. And we think that sharing personal data and give to the individuals tools to do something with this data is an exciting way among others. We imagine, and we experiment it "for real" - MesInfos is an experimentation at least.
And for us, the goal goes beyond proposing new services to consumers : it as something to do with empowering people - but we're aware that the term can be used by different meanings - i think english people have experienced it already…
So you may find our project a bit of naive, but the fact is we find it exciting and promising - and not only for companies.
So the goal is not to release "five dreary apps that no-one wants" as you underline… it is more than that.
(and in fact, we also aim to imagine 30-40 ideas/concepts and prototype 10 of them).

Second, you mention security and identity as big issues - and of course they are (luckily explored from a long time by others, we are not technicians at Fing, we're rather connectors). So keeping the data secure is a key problem. But for us, security is not the main issue : giving back individuals data is first of all a question of trust.
Talking about identity, i'm a bit of surprised of your conception of identity as an "identity card" - we do have one in France since a long time. For us, digital identity is not the extension of our ID card in bits. It's even not only the collection of traces that we leave on line, it is also the way every individual can project himself into new personna, or way of lives. And we believe that using our personal data for our own goals can help us to project AND to protect us. And as the project move forward, we don't see many cases for which strong individuals authentication is required, unlike today's situation ! So i found your shortcut a bit surprising : I said (in less than 140 characters…) that one application of MesInfos is to push forward the principle "personalization without authentication" and you translate it by "MesInfos personal data store is an ID card". "C'est un peu réducteur !"
I hope the few elements that i gave above can help the confusion…
(and "White ID Card" is a concept imagined by a french searcher that we found inspiring, see http://archives.fing.org/identitesactives.net/index.html%3Fq=accelerateur-de-projets-carte-identite-blanche.html - you will notice that, in the "White ID Card", biometry is used for individual protection and not for control...)

And to finish, 2 more things.
We don't pretend that before Fing (and our friends of Ctrl-Shift) "you've never seen a bank statement before or an itemised phone bill?". We work simply work to make something more interesting (and we hope, more exciting) with a bill or a ticket than we do today...
And last, and even if u seem to doubt about it, Fing is non profit organisation that explores technology and society. And MesInfos is not a public actor's initiative, unlike MiData. We are supported by big companies who have data, and we're really happy that Google support us !
You can see that every partner has signed a "charte de principe" (unfortunately, only in french but you seem to deal with our language : http://doc.openfing.org/MesInfos/Charte%20MesInfos.pdf)

And i'm 36 yo now, it's time to update my bio.

Hope these few elements will scatter a few misunderstandings - we have the right not agree on a lots of things, hope we'll be able to discuss it later…

Renaud Francou

Renaud Francou said...

PS : if really my comment is "incompréhensible", the only thing i can do is inviting you to read this MesInfos summary in english :) http://doc.openfing.org/MesInfos/MesInfosNotebook_ExecSum.pdf (the only text we have so far in your language)

David Moss said...

Dear Renaud

Thank you for your response.

MesInfos is not a public actor's initiative, unlike MiData

midata is UK government policy. It is promulgated by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) and underpinned in law by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013.

The only supplier of personal data stores BIS ever mention is Mydex. We are left to assume that Mydex will get a lot midata business.

They are assisted in this by the fact that their chairman, William Heath, is or was a member of the midata strategy board.

They are further assisted by the fact that BIS use Ctrl-Shift as their consultants. Ctrl-Shift recommend Mydex, among others, as suppliers of personal data services.

Alan Mitchell is a director of Ctrl-Shift and of Mydex. William Heath was a director of Ctrl-Shift and is still a shareholder in the company.

When you meet the civil servants at BIS you find that they don't know a lot about midata. They look to the suppliers to tell them what's going on. I.e. to Mydex and Ctrl-Shift, among others.

Separately, we have a pan-government identity assurance programme (IDAP) in the UK. Contracts have been entered into with five so-called "identity providers", one of them being Mydex.

IDAP is about identity and so is midata. The two projects are joined at the hip. Mydex is at the intersection of the two.

I realise that you do not suffer the same complex tapestry with MesInfos.

As a purely private sector initiative, I would not normally comment on MesInfos. What we all get up to in the private sector is our own business as long as it's legal and no concern of mine.

I finally made an exception in this case because one of our politicians used MesInfos as a way to inspire confidence in his midata policy, as noted above, Norman Lamb, ...

I wish you well.

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