UK Government Threatens Businesses Over Open Data

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Government urges companies to open up under midata initiative

The UK government has threatened businesses with legislation if they don’t open up data on their customers when asked.

Under new measures announced by consumer affairs minister Jo Swinson today, consumers will be given more power to get their data from businesses, as part of the ‘midata’ initiative announced a year ago.

Under the plans, companies are compelled but not legally obliged to release data they hold relating to a consumer’s “consumption or transactions in an electronic machine readable format”, upon request.

Open data mandate

If businesses do not comply and voluntarily hand over information in a “useful format”, the government will look to legislate further.

Swinson said: “Many businesses reap huge commercial benefits from the information they gather from consumers’ daily spending patterns. Why shouldn’t consumers also benefit from this by having access to their own data to enable them to make better choices?

“It’s great when your energy provider tells you how much gas or electricity you’re using at any point in the year or when phone companies tell you which one of their tariffs suits you best. But it’s even better when consumers can use that information to get better value for money deals or adjust their lifestyles.”

The midata programme was launched in November 2011, when the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) hooked up with 26 private sector organisations, including Google and MasterCard, to open up information.

The ostensible aim was to let customers get a better understanding of how they use services so they can make better choices.

Data privacy laws being handed down from the EU in the coming years will seek to enshrine people’s rights to get hold of information relating to them and even have it deleted under the controversial “right to be forgotten” provision.

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