Government 'Midata' plan comes under fire

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Lloyds TSB: allows users data access through Money Manager app
Lloyds TSB: allows users data access through Money Manager app

The government has unveiled its 'Midata' plan, which aims to revolutionise how consumers access personal information on them held by brands, amid concerns that the initiative is too narrow in its scope.

Under the measures, brands in the finance, telecoms and energy sectors would, upon request, be legally obliged to release data they hold relating to a consumer’s transactions or use of products and services, in an electronic format.

This followed a consultation run by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS), which att-ract-ed more than 400 responses.

More than 20 brands have already volunteered to comply, including Lloyds Banking Group, Google, British Gas and Visa. However, sectors such as retail and loyalty cards will fall outside the legislation.

Of the ‘big four’ supermarkets, only Sainsbury’s responded, claiming it already allows customers access to their data through a postal system, rather than the electronic format put forward by the government. Tesco refused to comment, while Asda and Morrisons were unavailable for comment.

Nick Pickles, director of privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, said the plans are ‘limited’ and ‘full of obfuscation’; he highlighted the omission of location data. ‘[It] is perhaps the most sensitive type of data they hold. Consumers will still not have a full picture of what businesses know about them,’ he argued.

The Midata initiative launch comes as the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) announced an investigation into the way that retailers use online data to target shoppers.

It could lead the OFT to clamp down on retailers if they change the prices they offer shoppers as a result of data from online shopping sessions.

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