The University of Southampton

Open Data initiative moves into the world of consumers' personal data

Published: 4 November 2011

The Open Data initiative took another huge step forward yesterday (Thursday 3 November) with the launch of a new initiative that will enable consumers to gain unprecedented access to personal data from banks, utilities, telecoms providers and a range of other companies.

Speaking at the launch of the Midata scheme in London, Professor Nigel Shadbolt, of ECS-Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton, and Government Open Data Adviser, told the BBC: “This is about getting the information that companies hold about me and you back to you in a form you can use."

Twenty-six companies, including Google, British Gas and MasterCard, have already joined the scheme, which enables customers to access ‘personal data inventories’. Consumers will be able to have better insights into their personal consumption and spending patterns which should lead to better informed choices of products and services. The companies are committed to developing common approaches to data access, and to set protocols on privacy, data security and consumer protection.

Professor Shadbolt has been advising the Government on the release of open data for the last two years, a move that takes advantage of the potential of technologies such as apps to link data in a way that provides new insights into information and to make comparisons.

"By making this information available customers will be able to make better-informed decisions,’ said Professor Shadbolt. ‘It's a movement that's already happening: at the moment we’re used to seeing our buying preferences from online bookstores recommend books back to us and we can share our preferences with friends and social networks – this kind of facility is going to happen everywhere.

"But the Government also holds large amounts of information about us, and I’d like to see us move to a situation where our health, education and tax information is just as accessible.”

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