Open access to consumer data takes a step forward

The Government has highlighted proposals for a ground-breaking programme that will open up personal consumer and transaction data to the wider public.

Its 'midata' programme will give consumers and businesses electronic access to data created through consumer household utility usage, banking, internet transactions and high street loyalty cards, with hopes of empowering consumers and boosting competition between firms.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) said that allowing people to access and use personal data had 'the potential to open up a wealth of opportunities for consumers and businesses; and 'promote growth across the wider economy.'

The partnership between the Government, consumer groups and major businesses was launched in 2011 and is currently going through consultation.

Consumer Minister, Norman Lamb said: "It's clear to me that giving consumers the right to access their own transaction data promises huge opportunities for both consumers themselves and UK businesses."

He explained: "Midata will allow consumers greater insight into their everyday consumption and lifestyle habits [...], analyse their actual behaviours and thereby empower them to make better spending choices and secure the best deals. This will boost competition between companies in terms of value and service, and stimulate innovation in new data management tools and systems."

He said it was crucial that businesses and consumers were involved in the consultation process to ensure the programme is built in the correct way to safeguard privacy and security.

The requirement for businesses to release data would only apply to those already holding information electronically and would only be released if requested by consumers.

The programme forms part of an ongoing Government strategy to make public and private sector data more transparent.

Energy sector suppliers are the first to give customers electronic access to their transaction data, with more sectors to soon follow suit.