Action required if brands are to give up their data

When details of midata were first unveiled in November 2011, most observers thought that the most difficult job the Government would have is selling the concept to a phlegmatic public. News that ministers are proposing brands are compelled to release data collected for marketing purposes suggests that the private sector also requires some convincing.

Russell Parsons

Midata – which aims to “shift away from a world in which certain businesses control the information they hold about consumers” – attracted 25 signatories from the private sector, trade associations and regulators on launch. However, action by all but the energy sector and a handful of banks has been next to nothing, leaving ministers with little option but to breathe life into the initiative by forcing brands kicking and screaming into the new age of data.

If midata is to make it beyond nascent stage and grow into the game changer that government hopes for, such action is entirely necessary.

It is entirely predictable that the energy sector is leading the midata charge. The big six energy suppliers have been in separate discussions with watchdog Ofgem and Government about introducing transparency measures for billing and tariffs. They are already under pressure and therefore, engaged in measures which share similar objectives.

For the rest, what is the incentive? Brands in many sectors invest considerable time, effort and money in collecting data. Information is key to creating targeted campaigns, the oil in the marketing machine. To just give some of that away would surely be counter initiative.

The Government’s sales pitch to companies – a means to bolster brand reputation by being more open and transparent – is a compelling one but it was always going to require a means of persuasion. An act of law forcing action will provide exactly that.

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