Farmers warned they are losing ownership of their data

James Nason, July 17, 2017

Brendan Skerman, AgData

Australian farmers are surrendering ownership of their potentially valuable farm data without realizing it, by not reading the fine print before signing up to software service providers.

Speaking at the recent Food Leaders Australia’ 400M Ag Tech conference in Toowoomba, AgData director Brendan Skerman expressed surprise that the issue of data ownership was receiving such little airplay at present.

“I don’t think farmers appreciate the value of their data,” he told the conference.

“And there seems to be a bit of a scramble to get ownership of farmers’ data.

“Data is becoming invaluable so much so that big multinational companies see this and are actively collating customer data.”

Many farmers may not realise there is a trend in companies collecting and on-selling their client’s data as part of their business model, Mr Skerman told Grain Central.

Why is this something farmers should be interested in, or care about, now?

“You are possibly giving away ownership of your data and the rights to the IP generated from it,” he warned.

As a company closely involved in ag technology, Mr Skerman said AgData was aware of emerging developments in the space that could potentially lead to farmers even losing the rights to their own data.

“I think it needs to be brought to farmers’ attention to address it before it becomes too big an issue for the farmers themselves.”

“There are unquestionable benefits in openly sharing data however this should be at farmers’ discretion as opposed to service providers assuming all rights to it”

Mr Skerman outlined to Grain Central some examples of how a company may currently be taking ownership of individual farmer’s data.

He said the Terms & Conditions of any service provider should clearly outline who assumes the rights to the data and what they can do with it.

“UnfortunatelyTerms and Conditions rarely get read so it comes as a shock to a lot of people to find out after the event that they have already lost control of their information – even beyond termination of their relationship,” he said.

“Having surrendered control of your data you have lost control of who gets to see your information and for what purpose. Would you be happy to be sharing your margins and input costs to whomever the provider so chooses?”

He stressed that data sharing “was not all bad”.

But it needed to be for the right purpose or application and farmers needed to be made aware of the implications up front, not for that information to be hidden in terms and conditions.

What steps can farmers take now to prevent loss of ownership of their data?

Be much more aware of terms and conditions when handling their data, was Mr Skerman’s advice.



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