Google, Visa, Lloyds Banking Group and British Gas are some of the companies that have announced their support for a government initiative that aims to release personal data back to consumers.

Called ‘midata’, the initiative aims to give people more and more access to their personal data in a portable, electronic format, and is part of the government’s transparency and open data agenda.

They can then use this data to gain insights into their interactions and transactions, and make more informed choices about the products and services they use.  

As well as helping consumers, the government believes that midata will help to boost competition between companies in the value and services they provide, and also lead to innovation such as the creation of more personal information services and tools.

“Currently, most consumer data is held by service providers, meaning only one side of the customer-business relationship is empowered with the tools of information management. midata seeks to redress that balance.

“This is the way the world is going and the UK is currently leading the charge. If we want to continue leading the way, we need to develop a platform upon which the innovation and services that drive growth can be built. midata aims to do just that,” said Edward Davey, consumer affairs minister, who launched the initiative today.

Twenty-six organisations have voluntarily pledged to support midata, including utility companies npower, EDF Energy, E.ON, Scottish Power, Scottish Southern Energy, and financial companies Mastercard, RBS and the UK Cards Association. Mobile phone company Three and price comparison companies and billmonitor are also backing the initiative.

In addition, organisations such as OFCOM, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and Consumer Focus will work on the project to represent consumers’ interests and concerns.

The businesses and organisations will start the project by developing online personal data inventories in each sector, which will describe the types of data an organisation holds about each customer.

They will also work to develop common approaches that will enable consumers to access their data and update basic information about themselves.

Furthermore, protocols on how to handle privacy, data security and consumer protection issues will be set.

The project is expected to enable the first releases of data back to customers in an electronic format in the first half of 2012.