By Jason Tatge, Farmobile co-founder and CEO
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On April 11 of this year, the world watched with glee as the 33 year-old CEO of Facebook testified before Congress to determine the role Russian hackers played in the 2016 election. The hearing was only investigative, but the public spectacle was condemning. A full quarter of the world are on Facebook, and those 1.94 billion monthly users were eager to watch The Man pay for the crime of selling their private data.
The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal provoked the entire hive mind, and the world was up in arms. It was the worst kind of betrayal — a betrayal of trust.
What hasn’t been said as much, however, is that this isn’t so much of a crime as it is a business model. There is no such thing as a free lunch, even in the age of social media startups and “freemium subscriptions”. When I search for something on Google for free, I know I’m able to do so because someone wants to learn and leverage my preferences and interests.
It’s creepy, but as a business owner, I can’t say that I don’t understand it.
I also can’t say I agree with how the situation has been handled by these platforms, but I can say that there are other egregious instances of data abuse that will quickly be in a similarly rocky boat when the public catches wind. And it would be foolish of consumers to be blind to it any longer.
We pay for Facebook in our data. Facebook makes money on ads, and ads work only if the platform they are on understands its users. This is true for most of the free services out there, in fact. It’s an agreement we all subscribe to when we click “sign up.”
Now imagine a world in which users pay for services both monetarily and with their data.
. . .
Said another way: Customers pay a company to use their personal data for the company’s monetary gain. There is no return for the customer other than, well, nothing.
I have seen time and time again this exact abuse by Big Ag. If this kind of outrage is resulting from a free social media service, what will they say about the tactics being used to collect intimate business knowledge from farmers after they pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for equipment? Paying for Facebook in data and money would be bad enough, but what if they collected your trade secrets, too?
Don’t farmers have a fundamental right to their data, too?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — it is time to update the thinking behind how customer data is used, and create a more equitable model. Data is one of a farmer’s most valuable commodities, and rarely is it treated as such.
Transparency and neutrality play a key role in creating a fair playing field. There is a shocking lack of both in Big Ag about when it comes to farmers’ data. That needs to change.
If we are to learn anything from what Facebook has been through, it is that it is time to clean up the world of AgData, and let the real work begin. Who’s ready?