Building toolkits to create shared data spaces

Factern was born of frustration: frustration with the difficulty of getting low cost access to high quality, private information on UK small businesses, and frustration with the problems that this was causing the UK small business financing market following the 2008 crisis.

That frustration was shared by Santander, Experian, Oliver Wyman, KPMG and AgFe. These institutions launched the Business Data Initiative, and collaborated to develop a prototype solution to be showcased to the UK financial services community at a roundtable hosted by the Cabinet Office. The reaction to the prototype was enthusiastic, to the extent that it was adopted by several banks as an input into the Competition and Market Authority's review of the UK retail and small business banking market

But we realised that the fundamental issue – that data continues to be trapped in silos – is a universal one: it is not specific to the UK, to small businesses or to lending. And this insight wasconfirmed through conversations with over 150 institutions in the UK and beyond, across a range of different industries.

Factern was formed as a commercial venture in November 2015, with the aim of building toolkits to support data sharing on an open, independent and generalised basis. Since then, we've worked closely with peer institutions and policy makers to define a framework for data sharing that actually works:

  • Providing expert input into the Payment Strategy Forum recommendations for trusted SME KYC data sharing
  • Coauthoring a thought piece on long term GDPR solutions with Oliver Wyman
  • Collaborating with the Whitechapel Think Tank and UK Finance to develop distributed market solutions for identity proofing
  • Contributing to the Celent report "Building a Consent and Control Centre: Towards Monetising Customer Data"
  • Working with Innovate Identity on the OIX report "The Cost of Doing Nothing: the Rising Price of Digital Identity Inertia"
  • Piloting solutions for identity attribute sharing with Mvine as part of the GOV.UK Verify scheme
  • Working with the Fintech Working Group to provide input on the role of the Open Banking Directory

And we've implemented an initial toolkit which executes a range of actions to support the routing of data between different data sources and data consumers. The functionality of this toolkit includes:

  • Discovery: facilitates ability to search for data, using metadata
  • Distributed data: points to data stored within in users enterprise
  • Permissioning: specifies complex access controls (including RBAC, ABAC, DAC)
  • Monetisation: prices access to data and receive bids from other users
  • Template access requests: single request served by multiple providers
  • Asynchronous routing: requests fulfilled over time, pending availability
  • Attestation: allows users to comment on the correctness of data
  • Watch: notification of changes to underlying data
  • Audit: supports a complete, independently-held record of activity 

We developed the Metadata Meta Protocol (MDMP) as a core semantic model that can be used to describe the universe of objects and actions that comprise a data space. We are publishing it to encourage its use as the basis for the creation of multiple data spaces, each of which can then interoperate if required. 

We want others to join us in implementing MDMP , both competing and collaborating with Factern as part of a network of Metadata Service Providers providing a way to reference private data wherever it is held, using infrastructure that can be trusted.