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Data Security: First in a Series

Ten Minute Tech

Do you know where your data is and who has access to it?

Published on: February 6, 2013

Just a few short months ago I never gave my data a second thought.  I mean really, what could I have that someone else would really be interested in? I am generally not a very interesting person and I do not do things that are extraordinary. My daily tasks are not that exciting.

Even so, you and I have patterns we follow and things we do that generate data.  There are companies out there that invest huge sums of money to learn your patterns and collect your data.

In general, most companies want your data patterns so they can target market-specific products and services to you based on where you go and what you do.  Currently, in most cases, the collection is benign and its ultimate result to you could be some unwanted targeted marketing to you in the form of an email or text message.  

However, if taken to the next level it could lead to some pretty invasive results (or future protocol products).

For example, I drive a new pickup truck and the manufacturer of that truck has a service option that uses an internet-connected device to upload certain data about my truck on a regular basis. I know this because on a monthly schedule I receive an email telling me such things as my tire pressures, mileage and oil change status as well as other diagnostic conditions. I know that the truck is connected to the internet because I have not sent them those statistics about my vehicle and I have not noticed one of their representatives out checking my odometer or tires.

Why is this company interested in my truck's data?

The answer came in the form of another email last month from the dealership where I purchased my truck. The email reported to me that my truck was in need of an oil change. It went on to solicit me to make an appointment with them for the service.  

So let's think about what had to happen in order for this to take place. First the manufacturer had to collect my data. Then they had to analyze my data and discover my need. They then had to transfer my data to my local dealer and tell them to send me a marketing communication.  

All this took place without me even really knowing it was happening.  I mean, there was never a note left on my truck saying "hey we were here and we got your data." 

Furthermore, I do not remember ever giving them permission to collect my data much less transfer it to another party.  I am sure in the stack of papers I signed when I bought the truck there was some document that granted them the rights or when I called to register with the service there was some implicit agreement to which I had consented.

Really, I don't much care about getting the marketing email and if you were to ask the manufacturer or dealer about it you would get some line about how it can improve their service to me.  

What I do object to is the potential for my data to be transferred to other parties for other, more invasive analysis and uses.

Stay tuned for a deeper investigation into the anonymity of your agriculture data next week.