26 May 2013

For consumers, an ‘Open Data’ society is a misnomer

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Despite all the hoopla about an “open data” society, many consumers are being kept in the dark, writes Natasha Singer in The New York Times.

“A few companies are challenging the norm of corporate data hoarding by actually sharing some information with the customers who generate it — and offering tools to put it to use. It’s a small but provocative trend in the United States, where only a handful of industries, like health care and credit, are required by federal law to provide people with access to their records.”

Particularly the initiative of San Diego Gas and Electronic caught my attention:

Last year, San Diego Gas and Electric, a utility, introduced an online energy management program in which customers can view their electricity use in monthly, daily or hourly increments. There is even a practical benefit: customers can earn credits by reducing energy consumption during peak hours.

About one-quarter of the company’s 1.2 million residential customers have tried the program, says Caroline Winn, the company’s vice president for customer services. Newer features, she says, allow customers to download their own use files. Or they can choose to give permission for the utility to share their records directly with a handful of apps that can analyze the data and suggest ways to reduce energy consumption.

Note also the discussion of initiatives taken by Intel, and the comments by Ken Anderson, an intel anthropologist.

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