Applying for, and being, a MyData Operator

I’m on a panel this afternoon at this Canadian Data Privacy Week event; the subject I’m due to discuss is as per the title above – how an organisation applies to become a MyData Operator, and what it means to become one. So I reckon I might as well write up my thoughts on this to share with those at the event, and anyone else who might find it useful.

There are 27 MyData Operators at present; I’ve led on the application process for two of them, and DataYogi .

2020 was the first year of the MyData Operator award process; it was recognised up front by all involved that becoming and being an Operator would be an ongoing journey that would start relatively informally, learn from each assessments and then likely tighten up over time as more commonality emerges and is understood in the group. The process itself is run by a very efficient team within the MyData organisation who set out and then run each award window (there were three in the second half of 2020). That team also collates the learning from each engagement with a proto-operator and feeds back to improve the process over time and build shared learning.

The core of the awards process is an online questionnaire that each photo-operator completes which provides background on the applying organisation, and then allows them to describe their business in terms of the shared MyData Operator Reference model shown below. This reference model, described in detail in the MyData Operators white paper, is not prescriptive; it is more a useful way to ensure each applying operator frames their responses so that they become easier to understand and assess.

This reference model is relatively high level at this stage, but will evolve consciously through feedback and iteration amongst the operators. That model evolution will happen fairly formally through H1 2021, and will be published prior to the next award round, currently scheduled for Summer 2021.

The online application process is ultimately quite detailed, with the description of the applying business vis a vis the reference model being the most substantial part. Most operators have reported that the online questionnaire has taken them 2-3 days to do properly; i.e. describing their business in some detail against each component of the reference model.

The next phase of the application journey is called Peer Review; that involves each Operator joining a 1-2 hour call with another applying Operator in order to chat through/ question each other on any aspect of each application. This is all done on the basis of shared learning, and helping to build out the Operator community in the spirit of building out this new industry sector. At this point in time there is very little in the way of competition between the Operators; clearly that may change over time as the sector evolves.

The final stage in the process is the Award ‘ceremony’ at which each Operator is given the remit to use the badge below and related certificate in their communications material. Note that each award lasts for a calendar year, albeit that has to flex at present until the renewal process kicks in.

MyData Operator Award Certificate

To the question of ‘what does it mean to be a MyData Operator’; I think in practice that this is more around future potential rather than immediate impact on a business. In tangible terms, becoming a MyData Operators allows for a bit of profile raising via a businesses own and then MyData Global generated blogs, articles and general PR. There are also opportunities to collaborate/ speak as one voice; for example in this co-ordinated blog post in response to the upcoming Data Governance Act

Ongoing, the Operators are now working on various activities that will help shared understanding and the evolution of this new space. Specific activities in play this year already include:

  • Ongoing shared responses to EU regulatory moves
  • Updating and improving the reference model prior to the next onboarding/ renewal round
  • Work to publish a small but fast evolving shared data schema/ ontology that is designed to aid interoperability and data portability across and within the Operators group

All in all, given the profile and problems in the personal data space, it feels like the emergence of the MyData Operators group and award process is a very positive development. If anyone wants any help with an application, just get in touch.

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