Midata, your data, but what happens when the computer says 'no'?

By: Judith Carr
Published: Saturday, January 24, 2015 - 08:30 GMT Jump to Comments

2015 will be the year of the Internet of Things. Understanding data ownership is essential. The Midata scheme must educate the public on personal data ownership.

The ending of one year and beginning of another gives rise to predictions. NESTA, who describe themselves as an 'Innovation charity with a mission to help people and organisations bring great ideas to life', offer some very interesting predictions for 2015.

Among them is the Internet of things becoming the Internet of everything. It makes for really interesting reading, but sometimes it is easier to concentrate on innovations than on what is happening once those innovations start to be adopted.

The end of the year, for me, highlighted two stories about data - showing where digital is taking us and the problems systems can create.

Firstly, the Midata scheme seems to be gaining more ground. It seems that the Midata scheme is not widely known, despite the possible long term effect this scheme will have on individuals and companies in the UK.

It was set up in 2011 and is voluntary. In a recent move, the scheme has teamed up with - so from April 2015 you can obtain 12 months of your recent financial transactions to compare and see if you have the right current account. 

Using this scheme with the ability to switch accounts within 7 days, the government hopes there will be more movement between banks for current accounts. Just like our attitude to utilities, the UK public is very loath to change. We have long memories of switching horror stories and qualification periods for debit and credit cards.

Nothing wrong with this idea, I quite like it in fact. But is seems to me to be missing the point somewhat. This is a bespoke service for those that have the time and inclination to change; who feel really safe letting an application have access to their financial information. Does it really address what is important?​

There are still many areas in the UK that do not have good internet connections and many people who do not have access to training and hardware to make them digitally aware. Ironically, the demise of local libraries will not help. A safe, non-partisan place to learn and obtain internet access, local libraries would be the natural place for people to go. But the library service is constantly under threat.

Whilst I am all for people being able to change current accounts, government services are increasingly forcing people to have some kind of on-line account. Perhaps this should be addressed first.

The Midata scheme should be more active in educating the public on the matter of data ownership and data protection, such as on the use of apps that collate large amounts of our personal data unnecessary for the running of the app. 

In the UK there is a project that is going some way to address the value of your data. 2015 is going to be a very interesting year for the HAT (Hub of All Things). Creating a business model, multi-sided market, recognising the value of our data and our digital journeys.

There is at present a consultation process going on, but you can now create your own HAT as they need users to feed back. I think this is much more in the spirit of Midata than the financial scheme, but again, both require a fairly sophisticated digital awareness and presence for an individual.

The other on-going story of many years rose to the surface again in December. It is a tale of caution and in some way affirms our fear, parodied in the series 'Little Britain' with 'the computer says no'. 

I am referring to the problems that sub-postmasters have found with their accounting system, which was introduced in 2000. It is a long story with many individuals facing jail, bankruptcy or  homelessness.

This was caused by the unswerving corporate response of the Post Office help desk and IT department that the system "must always be right," and the lack of training and education given to those directly affected by the system.

Eventually, a report was commissioned, carried out by forensic experts. This was recently leaked to the BBC. There is a mediation process under way, but as MP Mike Wood said in a recent Financial Times article, either Post Office sub-postmasters are all criminals or something has gone wrong. Why doesn't the Post Office want to get to the bottom of this?

Systems and data are created by humans and they can go wrong - this should not be forgotten. We never hear about the good systems and the ease with which most work, we only hear about the problems.

We, being human, only remember the problems. In this case, absolutely because the problems have caused people so much heartache.

Many moons ago I used to be involved in tax. Whilst the systems used to collate your data (financial or otherwise) may have changed, people haven't. So whilst there are those who will make sure they understand double entry book-keeping and keep all documents in a filing cabinet, there are those who use shoe boxes.

When I think of all the potential data you can amass in your HAT, is it any wonder that some people will just ignore data that is hard to reach, expensive to maintain, means a change in habit or the need to own a smart phone?

Life is hard enough, services are difficult to obtain, so there has to be incentives, training and facilities.

The next InformationDaily.TV AnswerTime programme IDENTITY ASSURANCE & ATTRIBUTE EXCHANGE is recording in Birmingham, 4-6pm  4th February. There are a few seats in the studio audience still available. Please email Ather Abbas ( if you would like to attend.

Attribute exchange is a way of overcoming some of the great barriers to digital by default and managing everything online, based on secure sharing of data between verified parties. How this will work in practice, and how public sector service providers and consumers will take to this approach, will be discussed at this event.

This InformationDaily.TV AnswerTime programme is sponsored by MYDEX  Mydex enables individuals to exchange personal data with confidence The programme will be available to view weekend 7th & 8th February

Judith Carr's reference links:

NESTA predictions


Midata and current accounts

ICO blog

Midata lab

HAT ttp://


Post office system criticised

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Information Daily, its parent company or any associated businesses.



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