At the national convention of the American Farm Bureau, a very conservative bunch, farmers are beginning to push back against Big Data by asserting that the data gathered from their farms is theirs, not multinationals like Monsanto:
.The farmers believe that the data is just as much their property as the farm itself. The multinationals have tried to assure them that the data they gather is secure and that it will only be used for commercial purposes of the gatherers, but to the farmers these assurances arent enough:
The increasingly common sensors measure soil conditions, seeding rates, crop yields and many other variables, allowing companies to provide farmers with customized guidance on how to get the most out of their fields.
The involvement of the American Farm Bureau, the nation's largest and most prominent farming organization, illustrates how agriculture is cautiously entering a new era in which raw planting data holds both the promise of higher yields and the peril that the information could be hacked or exploited by corporations or government agencies.
Seed companies want to harness the data to help farmers grow more food with the same amount of land, and the industry's biggest brands have offered assurances that all information will be closely guarded.
But farmers are serving notice in Washington that the federal government might need to become involved in yet another debate over electronic security and privacy.
Farm Bureau Federation put together a "privacy expectation guide" to educate its members and recently drafted a policy asserting that data should remain the farmer's property. The bureau also opposes allowing any federal agency to serve as a clearinghouse for proprietary or aggregated data collected by private companies.Methinks once commodity speculators in Chicago and on Wall Street get involved, such assurances wont amount to much. Knowing soil and yield information far in advance of government announcement is potential gold mine for speculators. That will be enough to bring these farmers around to government action. But the real story here is that this is the first organization with some clout that is calling for making their data a property issue, as ive been calling for here.
In my view, and I agree with these farmers, your data is just as much a part of your property as your house. As such, you have a right to keep it private or sell it to those who wish to profit from it. The problem we have today is that we have no data or privacy law in the United States to govern this sort of thing. Big Data is the most unregulated marketplace in America. Personal and what ought to be private data is being gathered and analyzed for profit with no compensation or privacy for those who have it in the first place. The current self-regulatory evironment is very, very profitable for those who feel your data belongs to them, not you. No industry should be trusted to regulate itself.
Perhaps this farmer said it best:
Nick Guetterman, who farms roughly 10,000 acres of corn and wheat with his father and three brothers in eastern Kansas, already uses GPS technology and has been considering sending all his data to a specialized service. But he still has reservations about what a seed company or an equipment manufacturer will do with it.Notice he said 'my data.' Thats how we all need to start thinking about data produced by the devices we own.
"I have not found it on my farm beneficial enough to pay them to analyze my data," Guetterman said. "I either analyze it myself or do nothing with it."