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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:

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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.

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:
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.

"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."

Notice he said 'my data.' Thats how we all need to start thinking about data produced by the devices we own.

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Comment Preferences

  •  knowledge (5+ / 0-)

    Knowledge is a good thing--it is needed for a society to advance,  the problem is who gets to use it, and why.  Freedom to retrieve knowledge is often necessary even when the "owner" wants to keep society in the dark.  The only way to check if an school is racist is to examine its books--are minorities allowed in?  The only way to regulate segregation is to look at realtor's listings and customers.  The only way to spot auto defects is to monitor repair shops.  The only way to monitor diseased crops is to monitor the food chain from farmer to retailer.  

    I therefore disagree that stats need to be considered private property--there is a need to know.  Who gets the info--how the info is retrieved--is the function of some societal regulator.  We're out of the cave, cameras and sensors are everywhere, ignoring their utility is fighting the future--is Republicanism.

    Actions speak louder than petitions.

    by melvynny on Mon Mar 31, 2014 at 06:48:07 AM PDT

  •  I would like to call for (5+ / 0-)

    ownership of my personal data. The corps have sure come a long way in claiming it.

    Be the change you want to see in the world. -Gandhi

    by DRo on Mon Mar 31, 2014 at 06:49:39 AM PDT

    •  Mind you, try to get hold of a Corps 'personal' (4+ / 0-)

      data, and you'll find yourself a law-breaker. I always thought if a company wants to know your personal history, credit status, whether you take drugs or what-all, why can't you find out owners of the company are drunks, cheat on their spouses, coke heads, solvent,... Why's it work in only one direction?

      (Of course, the real answer is that there's one set of rules for the Aristocrats and another for the peasants).

      BBB is completely right that the data generated by our lives is our property. If google wants to use my search habits to make money from advertisers, they need to a) get my permission, and b) pay me for every use of my data, with provision that every re-seller also needs my permission and pays me.


      Real fixes, outside the coffin fixes, ain't ever pragmatic says DC Bubble Conventional Wisdoom.

      by Jim P on Mon Mar 31, 2014 at 08:36:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  One need not look farther than the "Do Not Call".. (7+ / 0-)

    ...registry to understand how pathetic regulatory oversight is of these matters. Yes, BBB, you're right (and I'm right), there's a much bigger picture here as far as government (and, perhaps, even more importantly, the private sector) intrusion and surveillance (there is no other word for it) of our everyday lives are concerned. The DNC registry is, supposedly, overseen by the FTC (if I'm not mistaken), and they make the captured souls over at the SEC look like a bunch of pikers.

    I ask, when was the last time you received a call or a text message from a stranger trying to sell you something on your landline? On your cellphone?

    The NSA may be "the shiny object," but every other law enforcement entity, and big business, itself, are (statistically speaking) the real culprits with regard to these transgressions and in this unprecedented invasion of our privacy.

    People unaware of what's happening may ask: What does this have to do with surveillance? The answer is: EVERYTHING. (When your personal medical history is now available to Big Pharma; when a report on your private social life may be delivered up to a lawyer in a matter of minutes; and, when virtually every law enforcement entity in the U.S. may track and trace you without a warrant, never mind review your everyday purchases with a mere email or phone call, something's very amiss in our society. This is about unbridled capitalism at its most egregious level.

    There is no such thing as personal-private information, and the excuses made by the defenders of these travesties are both shallow and feeble.

    (And, we both know this, too.)

    "I always thought if you worked hard enough and tried hard enough, things would work out. I was wrong." --Katharine Graham

    by bobswern on Mon Mar 31, 2014 at 06:52:41 AM PDT

    •  Ain't no 'tracking'/'surveillance.' It's Stalking (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DRo, GreenMother, Calamity Jean

      some done by business, some by government, but it's all some freaking obsessive nuts who ain't interested in our well-being watching every detail of our private lives.

      When something is that creepy it needs the proper creepy name: Stalking.


      Real fixes, outside the coffin fixes, ain't ever pragmatic says DC Bubble Conventional Wisdoom.

      by Jim P on Mon Mar 31, 2014 at 08:40:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Who, other than the farmer (5+ / 0-)

    mentioned, sets up the data gathering equipment?  Do the farmers pay for it and the service?  One could argue that Monsanto stores its proprietary data with services which are not Monsanto so, are the farmers and America privy to that data?  The answer, of course, is no.  

    I should think that if the farmers are paying for the data collecting and analyses then the data is their private property.  Pretty much like I pay for services connected to the operation of my computer, but (other than NSA and hackers) my client files are my property -- and privileged for the most part.

    " My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total." Barbara Jordan, 1974

    by gchaucer2 on Mon Mar 31, 2014 at 06:54:47 AM PDT

    •  That was my first thought. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wilderness voice, nickrud

      My sensor on my land= my data.
      Your sensor on my land = your data, unless otherwise stipulated in contract.

      Can my data be aggregated by my analysis contractor with data from all of their other customers, and if so, does the contractor own the new data set?

       In both cases, I don't see any reason why not- I know that my bank uses information from my cash withdrawal patterns, as well as every other customers, to determine how much cash to have on hand on Monday as opposed to Friday.

      I know that my SpeedPass ( little RFID device for toll tracking) data is aggregated with many others by the state DOT to manage their systems.

      So I don't see a problem with data analysis contractors doing the same thing.

      I mean, hell, the NWS does this with volunteers who don't even get anything out of it.

  •  For a good example of the data in question... (0+ / 0-)

    The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

    by wesmorgan1 on Mon Mar 31, 2014 at 08:23:11 AM PDT

  •  I just want a cut. Does anyone have an idea of how (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DRo

    much economic activity has been generated by selling a 60 year old's data for 30 years?

    Ball park figure? Anyone? NSA?

  •  One problem with the overall policy emphasis (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wilderness voice, nickrud, DRo, milkbone

    saying that farmers own their own data comes with the matter of how concentrated animal feeding operations address requirements under the Clean Water Act with comprehensive nutrient management plans.   (CNMP)

    All of the elements of CNMPs must be available to federal and state agencies and the public in order to allow regulations of these operations under the Federal Clean Water Act.

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