Ethical and legal questions about smart farming. How do farmers feel about their data?
"Mobilizing Capacity Development in Agriculture for Smallholder Farmers
- How to bridge the digital divide".
Ethical and legal questions about smart farming. How do farmers feel
about their data?
Kampala INSPIRE Hackathon 2020
Webinar, 02 April 2020
Smart farming has a lot of potential for advancing agriculture and giving
farmers tools to be more productive and profitable. Although the benefits
from digitalization are multiple, farmers feel they are not the one’s
benefiting from the value of data collected on their farms.
Two are the main challenges that farmers need to overcome:
first, to gain access to relevant data and services provided by others and,
second, to make sure that any data they share does not actually weaken
Ensuring that farmers understand their rights to data and have access to
relevant data is essential to harness the benefits for better farm decision
1. Understanding Open, FAIR and Responsible Data
2. Understanding why open, FAIR data is important in agriculture
3. Who are the actors in the (open) data ecosystem and how do
they interact in terms of data and knowledge (map)
• We generate too much data (research and non research)
Types of data
Open data: is data that is available for anyone to access, use and
share. It is published under an open licence that allows it to be used for
Some data cannot be made open, because it may contain sensitive
information about individuals or groups. But it may still be possible to
share that data with specific organisations, so long as there are
appropriate safeguards in place.
Shared data: is data that is only available to certain people or groups,
such as researchers. Data that is shared will typically be made available
for specific purposes that are defined by a data sharing agreement.
Closed data: is data that is held privately within an organisation, such
as employment contracts and policies or sales reports.
● What ethical principles need to be in place for the handling of data?
● Who owns data? who has really control of the use of data?
● Who is entitled to the value of the data?
● What is responsible data?
● Are farmers reluctant to share their data? If so why?
● How do we make information accessible to all actors involved in
● What about data protection? What do we mean by the farmers rights to
● What is the state of recognition of these rights in national and
● What’s the role of GDPR in the agricultural sector?
Ethical and legal questions about smart
Responsible data is: the duty to ensure people‘s rights to consent,
privacy, security and ownership around the information processes of
collection, analysis, storage, presentation and reuse of data, while
respecting the values of transparency and openness (Responsible Data
Two basic principles for the need for responsible data:
Empower users to be active participants rather than passive data
To ensure that we do no harm and that the way in which we use data
and technology does not facilitate harm done by others.
What is responsible data?
• Data onwership/control of access and use
• Privacy(a.personal data,b. Definitional issues such as whether all (or some) farm data
should be considered personal or not).
• Lack of transparency and trust
• Inequality of bargaining power. Complex and unfair terms and conditions within the
• Farmer’s rights
• Lack of awareness and informed consent from data generator, primarily the farmer
• Lack of benefit sharing between farmers and agribusinesses(in many cases farmers
are unaware of the value of benefit sharing) This leads to monopolies.
• Data asymmetries, power and knowledge imbalances between the
stakeholders(eg.because of limited access of some farmers to digital technologies or
to the data they generate)-digital divide.
• Risk of misuse of farmer’s data
Farmers’concerns around data sharing
What does it mean to own data?
It means that someone an individual, a group, a business an organization
has a proprietary interest.
Speaking of ownership necessarily implies the existence of property
The most basic element of property ownership is the exclusive right to
control the terms and conditions of access to a resource.
When the value of a resource is mostly intangible as with data, ownership
issues are governed by IP rights, copyright etc.
• "Ownership" as a legal concept is more complicated. You can only
own something if the law recognizes that an ownership right.
• "Ag Data" is not a traditionally recognized type of property, subject
• Ownership of "intellectual property" or "IP" in a few instances.
You can own a patent on a new invention.
You can own a trademark or service mark.
You can own a copyright in an original literary, musical, theatrical or
other creative work.
Ag data doesn't fit into these traditional IP classifications.
• Legal rights “establishing” ownership of data are copyright, patents,
database rights, trade secrets, plant breeders rights.
• Most legal rights to data are owned by intermediaries that invest in the
selection of data, safeguarding of confidential information, or similar
• The lack of enforceable data rights owned by certain communities
particularly smallholder farmers contributes to inequality and
Ag Codes of conduct
Farmers and agri-businesses are more than willing to share data with each other and engage in a
more open data mind set if the potential benefits and risks are made clear and they can trust that
these issues are settled in a proper and fair way through contractual agreements.
1.EU Code of Conduct on Agricultural Data Sharing by Contractual Agreement (2018)
2.American Farm Bureau Federation’s Privacy and Security Principles for Farm (2014)
New Zealand Farm Data Code of Practice (2014)
● These codes cover central issues such as terminology, data ownership,
data rights (right to access, data portability, and the right to
erasure/right to be forgotten), privacy issues, security, consent,
disclosure and transparency.
● In addition, they all attempt to harness the benefits of agricultural
data while protecting producers’ privacy and security.
● While they are not legally binding and rely on self-regulation, these
codes are building awareness around the importance of transparency
in agricultural data flows, changing the way agribusiness views data
and making data producers (primarily farmers) more aware of their
Ag codes of conduct
● One key issue is that the existing codes do not have farmers or Farmers’
Organizations (let alone smallholder farmers) as their primary target audience,
but rather the agribusinesses and ag tech companies that work with farmers
and use their data.
● A customizable code of conduct that provides basic and general guidelines
based on farmers’ needs and interests will be critical.
● Data ownership
● Terms and definitions
• Farmer’s rights
● Farmers’ advance notification of data collection through a clear briefing
● Farmer’s informed consent of data collection and use, and access control
● Clear and understandable contract
● Contract termination
● Disclosure, use and sale limitation
● Liability and protection of intellectual property rights
● Enforcement certification schemes and their effective implementation by an independent and
participatory administrating entity
Farmers’perspective code of conduct
● GODAN/CTA sub-group on codes of conduct:
● Α CTA working paper on Review on codes of conduct,voluntary guidelines and
principles relevant for farm data
● Αn online tool on codes of conduct will be hosted at GODAN's website with
CTA's,GFAR's and KTBL's logos(due end of April 2020)
● It is actually a proposal for online data exchange guide using clauses from
codes of conduct and supporting materials.The site should feature the 14
clauses identified and allow for an introductory page featuring related
information.The users should be able to select a clause if they think it is
relevant and proceed to a checkout where the selected clauses can be output
as a document.
Farmers’perspective code of conduct
● Need for data protection beyond personal data(General Data
● The new Regulation of the free flow of non personal data in the
EU(came into force on the 28 th of May 2019) and it’s relevant to
digital agriculture which defines data on precision farming as non-
personal data. Another point is the promotion of self regulation(codes
of conduct, allowing for transparent, structured and seamless sharing
of data between service providers.
● Data security
● Laws and regulations
Considerations about data generated
in the agri-food value chain
Rights of access, use and share:
• The data provider is responsible for making data easily available to the
• Right of portability: the right to have the data transmitted directly from
one data user to another where technically feasible, unless stated in the
• Right to remove, destroy, erase(right to be forgotten)or return data to
the data originator.
• Right to participate in decision making
• Prior informed consent for the use of data
How these rights should be implemented and protected?
• Need for a cultural shift. Farmer should be at the center(equitable
data sharing and exchange)
● Policy changes are needed in national, regional and international level
to support farmers’ rights to data information and knowledge.
● Increase awareness of smallholder farmers of their position in agri-
food networks as data originators and the value that they could
extract from transactions/exchange based on their position.
● Education and empowerment of
● Inclusion of farmers representatives(farmers’ associations) in the
development of farm data standards and in decision making about
data and information
● Farmer’s informed consent about the use of the data collected is
● Need for Ethical frameworks eg. codes of conduct. 20
● Join us and contribute to GODAN’s efforts worldwide
● We welcome your ideas and contributions
● Data Rights and Responsible Data Working Group
● Sub-group on codes of conduct