Producers are generating more data than ever before. If data was water we’d be dancing in the streets. 

But as every bit of equipment from your tractor to your ear tag generates more ones and zeros than you know what to do with, what do you need to know about where that data goes and what happens to it once it’s gone? 

It turns out that three out of four Australian producers don’t know much about the terms and conditions around data collection in their agreements with service providers. These are 5 questions you need to ask when you’re installing new data-generating technology. 

  1. Who owns the data that gets generated by this equipment?
    Bodies like the National Farmers’ Federation and the Australian Farm Institute say that farmers should own the raw data that is generated in their businesses. But there are plenty of service agreements that give significant rights of ownership and access to the service provider and/or other third parties. That’s because these days, data is a valuable commodity with applications far beyond the farm gate. Ask the service provider directly about data ownership and get them to show you where this is spelled out in the agreement. Keep in mind that ownership of aggregated data (where data is combined to form a new data set) and transformed data (data that has been changed into a different structure or format) can be different because of the new value created, so ask about how the service provider handles this too. 
  2. What data is collected and who can see it? 
    Data privacy is very important, but sharing data is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s often crucial to delivering the service and to research and development. But again, service providers have a responsibility to explain this clearly and simply. The service provider cannot collect data unless you have given explicit, written agreement and has a responsibility to protect your data with extra protection measures for personal data. You should approve who has access to what data, for what purpose and how is this managed.
  3. How do you store my data and how secure is that system? 
    If the service provider stores data, they should have a secure system with a data backup and recovery mechanism. Ask them what security and privacy protocols they have in place to prevent unauthorised access. If an unauthorised person accesses or attempts to access your data, you should be notified immediately. It’s also good to ask whether data will be stored in Australia and therefore covered by Australian law.
  4. What do I need to do if I want to see the data you hold or get it deleted?
    You should be able to ask for the service provider to give you access to any data they hold about you and your business operations. They should delete it if you ask them to, although this might not be possible (or necessary) with aggregated data so pay close attention to your contract.
  5. Do you adhere to the National Farmers’ Federation voluntary code?
    The National Farmers’ Federation recently released a voluntary Farm Data Code. It’s the first time Australia has had a data policy in relation to farming and agriculture and important step forward. Many companies will also have their own data policy, so you should ask to see this too and if they don’t have one pay close attention to the terms in the contract.