Data and Privacy

data-and-privacyFarm Data and Privacy

Data and privacy is a growing concern for many people.  Many growers think that the data collected from their farm is their data and is private and confidential. While this seems logical to many the laws governing  privacy have little to do with data ownership and the use of commercial data and information collected about a farm operation or business.

It’s important for farmers to understand what is personal data versus commercial or business data and how they can be protected and how they may control the use of use data.

What do Privacy Laws regulate?

Australian laws governing privacy are about the management of personal information and data. Personal information is defined as

“any information or an opinion about an identified individual, or an individual who is reasonably identifiable whether the information or opinion is true or not and whether the information is recorded in a material form or not”.

Therefore to be considered personal information the individual does not need to be automatically identified (such as through a photo or by recording their name and address). The individual needs to be reasonably identifiable from the information or their identity traced through analysis of the information or data.

While focused on limiting the use and distribution of personal information Privacy laws do not consider data ownership.

The key message about personal information and privacy in relation to data and privacy and collecting it for commercial purpose, is to review the data to assess whether or not the IDENTITY of the INDIVIDUAL can be reasonable ascertained from the information (data or image). If YES, then the information must be managed as if it was Personal Information and the Privacy Act will apply.

Sharing Personal Information

The fact that a dataset contains information about an individual will not prevent publication or distribution of the data. However, steps must be taken to DE-IDENTIFY THE DATA.  Data De-Identification is the removal of any identifying data to the point that an individual can no longer be identified or traced via the data.

Commercial and Business Data

On key factor to consider when collecting data and sharing such data with a service provider, is that there is no automatic protection granted to factual or raw data. Copyright laws protect the form of presentation of data but not the data itself. So this means that in collecting raw data about your land or crop, you may have no automatic legal right to the data.

As the data is converted from its raw form (eg soil or crop data), to a usable form such as a map or a dataset, copyright protection may exist over the map and database.  The person who creates the data map will hold the copyright.

The important message is that the owner of the map or dataset, is not the person that provides the data or even pays for the map or dataset to be developed. It is the person that first creates the map or dataset. In many cases this means the service provider will own all material developed from your data.

To protect your data, it is important to have an appropriate written agreement in place.

In some cases raw data and particularly business information may be confidential information. This also means that it must be managed as confidential information. Freely providing raw farm or business data to a service provider without an agreement in place may limit the rights you have in controlling the use of the data.

TechMAC can help you understand data use rights and to develop strategies in managing your farm and business data.