Data Security & Privacy An Essential Piece to Adopting New Technologies

By Terry Schlitz

Many of us hear industry folks and farm- ers throw out the term “data security and privacy,” but in simple terms what does it mean and why does it matter?

Data is no longer a byproduct of tech- nology. It has become a major asset for producers, guiding decisions based on historical analysis instead of intuition. As technology continues to transform the agriculture industry, the more data produc- ers will be collecting. According to an IDC report, the amount of data saved and col- lected by 2020 will be 35 trillion gigabytes. With all of this data, producers are going to need to understand how to properly store and protect this asset.

Much of a grower’s data is stored on some- one else’s server, otherwise known as “in the cloud.” This is beneficial on a number of levels beginning with lower annual cost, convenience of not having to maintain application software, remote access to the application and data, maintenance of the computer, decreased on-site data storage requirements, and finally the ability to easily share information with the grower’s trusted advisers and others with a vested interest.

With the above-listed advantages, there comes a concern about how to protect your data from exposure to unwanted parties and the possibility of losing data if a “cloud” provider goes out of business. A

common question is who owns the data (in almost all cases, industry partners agree it belongs to the grower). However, a less commonly asked, but probably a more im- portant question, is who controls access to the data (i.e., grower, landowner or the application provider)?

Here are a few good tips to keep in mind as they relate to data:

1. Locate the “terms of use” within the software application, typically found at the bottom of the page.

2. Place data on a secure website behind encrypted firewalls. In this case, a user- name and password will be required to access the data. Typically, these sites will begin with “https:” in their URL, rather “http:”

3. Know who has the authority to approve the sharing of data and who has access to the data. Data sharing can be good or bad. Most growers benefit by sharing the data with their trusted advisor, but it is important to understand if your specific data is shared or sold to others without your knowledge.

4. Understand what value the data could provide to your operation. Value can come in various forms, such as better insights into productivity, cost savings, more efficient use of labor, simplified record keeping, etc.

Terry Schiltz is the CEO of AgSense LLC and CTO of Valmont Irrigation. Before joining AgSense in 2003, he co-founded

Schiltz Mfg. with his father in Wessington, SD and also formed a telecommunications company in Denver, CO. His under- standing and passion for both the ag and telecommunications industries are what led him to become a partner in AgSense.

Agriculture will continue to become more reliant on technology and the data that it generates. Proactively embracing the opportunities that technology adop- tion provides and being aware of some potential pitfalls will help you move your operation in the right direction.

Taking control of your data security and privacy is an essential piece to adopting new technologies. Data is an asset that will only grow in value over time. Taking preventive action now could result in a fruitful future for both you and those who succeed you. 25

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