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Data Security: Second in a Series

Ten Minute Tech

As a prudent business owner you must protect those practices that have everything to do with your data

Published on: February 13, 2013

Let's think like a conspiracy theorist for a minute.  What if my manufacturer were able to use the GPS on my truck to tie my travels to the roads on which I drive?  From this information they would be able to come up with the number of miles I drive on township, county, state and federal roads.  The company could then go to the appropriate government entity and, for a fee, report my usage to them. The government entity could then tax me based on usage.  All this could be in the name of fair taxation.  

We could argue the positive and negatives of it but ultimately, it could all happen without me even knowing it is occurring.

Let's go one step further with an insurance company and their use of this data.  If they know what roads I travel on a regular basis and they know the safety statistics of a particular portion of a road I travel regularly, they could change my rates to reflect the risk I have of being involved in an accident.  This could go in my favor and it could just as easily go against me.  

Again, in this scenario I am generating data and that data is being transferred for someone else's gain and I may or may not be sharing in that gain. That is really the problem--I risk generating data and someone else reaping the reward.

So far you might be asking yourself, yeah, so what?  Why is a guy who is supposed to be writing about agricultural technology going on about his truck's data collection system?  

Well, it doesn't take very much imagination to put your combine, planter or fertilizer applicator in place of my truck. Instead of tire pressures and oil change deadlines, the data could be seed variety or product rate and, ultimately, yield resulting from your management practices.

Think about someone at a remote site being able to look at all of your work and discover what you do that makes your operation successful.

You probably are thinking, "No way am I going to let someone do that to me and my farm."  What do you need to do to prevent it?  

Companies may come to you and offer you products and services that require you to sacrifice certain rights and potentially share ownership of your data.  Since I am pro-technology and there are certain advantages you can gain through these products, I am not recommending you turn away all offers. Rather, you need to make educated decisions.  

You need to read the fine print and ask the tough questions of the companies who seek your data. You also need to have a little conspiracy theorist in you and try to extrapolate where your data could potentially end up.  

I cannot resist the opportunity to describe where I would love to position my company in a selfish approach. Let's say I could develop a revolutionary monitoring device that provided very accurate yield data. Let's also say I could offer the end user a service where I analyzed this data to help make management decisions. However, for me to analyze your data I need you to wirelessly transfer your data to my company. As part of the license agreement, if you agree to use my device and services you consent to give me the rights to anonymously sample your data.

As your data starts rolling in during harvest I am going to be aggregating the data by township, county, state and region to compare my averages to USDA's estimates. I would be calling my broker to position myself to take advantage of my new-found wisdom.

Obviously, I do not have the staff or capital to make any of this happen, but that is not to say it cannot happen. All you need to do is re-read my experience with my truck from the first part of this series to realize that the sensors and communication to make this happen has already been developed. All it takes now is the company to pull it all together.

Ultimately the point is that, you as a prudent business owner MUST protect your trade secrets and those practices that have everything to do with your data.

You should be very aware of the companies you chose to do business with, especially if they are asking for your data. Make sure you trust them and understand how their business plan very clearly details the potential use of your data.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Now for the good news if you are a landowner or happen to have a financial investment in a venture capital partnership. Should you arrive at the possibility that someone is not reporting what is being harvested, sprayed or planted, well here's the good news. You can have the courts subpoena to have the data sent to you by the equipment manufacturers. This will come in very handy in determining whether you are being mislead or outright being robbed from by those you've hired or those not fulfilling their contractual obligations.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Who especially is interested in your harvest data? Many. Would you like it if the local grain elevator knew exactly how many bushels you harvested for the year? Most freely consent to have their farm data extracted by these parties when you load it onto a PC that is directly connected to the internet. Its also available as the tractor and combine and sprayer are running. For example, some of you have received calls out of the blue to pay attention to your fuel and air filters or check your coolant. It may feel like like a convenience or possibly make you believe that you're being looked out for. If this were true, the system you purchased would not have been constructed without these features and the manufacturer who expressly print that your data is not being collected and or shared by anyone for any reason whatsoever. Ever noticed that you never have software updates to protect your privacy?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Your seeding and harvest data can be collected in many ways. As you remove the data collected on a memory stick or chip, you'll insert that into a personal computer. After all, we are going to use this data to create maps and record what has been and perform more thorough analysis of how are practices are working, especially how our population equates to yield. Above all, what most parties want to know is your yield and not just yours but your neighbors as well. Perhaps you've heard of Datamining. In this country, datamining is extensive and not all of it is legal. Just as the salesperson who sold the pickup and the dealer you purchased your GPS Monitor from most likely isn't aware that behind the scenes how your data is collected, managed and sold to. Moreover, most employees that manage, market and improve this technology are not always on the inside to the other types of profit their devices generate. There is a fine line to when marketing at a company is studying patterns and behavior to come up with better ways to sell their products and when your personal data of your business is being used and sold to other parties to perform the same very activities. It doesn't stop there.,

  4. Anonymous says:

    Please consider this example for a moment. If you currently are an owner of machinery to which it transmits data back to a dealership, it doesn't mean the data stops there. If transmitted there, its just as easy for it to be transmitted anywhere else. Your dealer may not even be aware that its also being collected by the equipment manufacturer and other parties they are involved with, especially OEM's that refer to strategic partners. For example, Deere and company does make it known publicly that some of their "strategic partners" which happen to be vendors to which you as a farmer or agribusiness often purchase products, services, insurance or even sign loans with.