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January 23, 2014

Big Data Privacy Focus for New AFBF Policy

For more information on Newsline, contact: Kari Barbic, Media Specialist, American Farm Bureau Federation, karib@fb.org.

Big Data is a new phenomenon in precision agriculture - and American Farm Bureau’s Mary Kay Thatcher expects this phenomenon to grow even more over the next few years. Seanica Otterby has the story.
Otterby:Various companies - including seed dealers and equipment manufacturers - offer farmers a prescription for becoming more efficient in their operations if farmers provide their data.
Thatcher:Data is collected through machines that might be on the combine that can then immediately be uploaded to the cloud on an on-time basis.
Otterby:Mary Kay Thatcher - American Farm Bureau Senior Director of Congressional Relations - says the biggest concern Farm Bureau has is with the privacy of collected data - especially with incidents like the recent security breach through Target.
Thatcher:If you had John Deere collecting such data, could someone come in and hack the system and then use some of that data? There’s lots of concerns depending on where it’s stored, could it come under the Freedom of Information Act request, and therefore you get somebody like EPA that has this data? So it’s just a lot of unknowns.
Otterby:Thatcher believes farmers would benefit from the data itself.
Thatcher:Farmers collect a lot of data, but putting all the pieces of the data together is often a very difficult task. So, the new technology that’s coming out is going to be able to help farmers combine all of that information and make better decisions.
Otterby:Farm Bureau recently developed a new policy on Big Data. Thatcher says it focuses on the importance of privacy and farmer education on this technology.
Thatcher:You and I probably look at our iPhone and we upload the new iOS 7 program and we just check the box that says, yes, we agree, but we don’t read the agreements. Farmers have tended to do the same thing. Farmers and ranchers need to read the fine print and understand what they’re doing, and make sure that they believe that the improvements that they will get in productivity or efficiency is going to outweigh the costs of what might happen with that data in someone else’s hands.
Otterby:Seanica Otterby, Washington.

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