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.