Weighing the cost of Data vs. Privacy

If you’ve ever used a search engine like Google or Bing, you may not realize you’re giving up some of your privacy every time you search. That’s because companies like Google and Microsoft track your activities to better determine which types of ads and search results to show you. The loss of your privacy is the price you pay for getting better search results and more relevant ads.
This same idea of data mining occurs with farmers as well. By using precision technologies that collect weather data, track seed varieties, analyze nutrient applications and map crop yields, farmers can reduce the cost of seed, fertilizer and pesticides by an average of 15 percent, and increase crop yields by an average of 13 percent. Not surprisingly, many farmers plan to invest in new or additional precision and data technology in the next year or two.
But just like the loss of privacy when using search engines like Google or Bing, there’s also the potential loss of privacy when using the latest agricultural technologies that collect data. According to the latest survey by American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), fully 77.5 percent of farmers fear regulators and other government officials might gain access to their private information without their knowledge or permission. Nearly 76 percent of respondents said they were concerned others could use their information for commodity market speculation without their consent.
“We want to be sure that farmers’ and ranchers’ data are protected, and we’re asking the hard questions to make sure that happens,” AFBF President Bob Stallman said. “Farmers should know who owns their data and how they plan to use it. It’s up to companies that collect the data to make all that clear.” Farmers overwhelmingly agree: More than 81 percent believe they retain ownership of their farm data, according to Farm Bureau. Yet, it’s still unclear to most (more than 82 percent) how companies intend to use the farmers’ data.
“Agriculture technology providers must be diligent in protecting farmers’ data and transparent in their contracts about how their data will be used,” AFBF’s Stallman said.
Precision technologies work precisely because they collect so much data, but it’s important that you remain aware of what data others might collect from you and how they might use it without your knowledge or permission.