While participating in a recent podcast hosted by United Soybean Board’s Tech Toolshed (Getting to know Ag Data Transparent), the host asked this question: What does data transparency mean?  I asked a few industry leaders about what “data transparency” means to them.

Billy Tiller, CEO of Grower Information Services Cooperation (GiSC) and Texas farmer: 

Transparency means that the farmer understands what is happening to their data. The farmer is a businessman and should be able to make the decision about how data is shared without it being made for him. Transparency means that, as a farmer, I have the opportunity to get the most out of my data. I have the opportunity to pick the companies I want to share my data with. I have no fear that my data will be used for a purpose other than what I want. That’s what transparency means. 

Jason Tatge, founder of Farmobile, explains transparency this way:  

Data transparency means utilizing data with integrity so that individuals know what data is being collected, who has access to it, and how they’re able to interact with it. We live in an age where trust is at an all-time low — when data breaches and opaque partnerships are the norm, and individuals are looking for the most trustworthy brokers and stewards of their data. How do you gain that trust? You do it by providing a clear, 360-degree view into how the data is being used, ensuring that data creators have anytime access to it as well as direct control over how and when it is shared.

Amanda Neely with WinField United’s Answer Tech, explains data transparency like this:

The concept of ag data transparency is simple: Farmers own their data, and they should know exactly how it is being treated by their data provider. Is it being shared? Is it being sold?

The Ag Data Transparent (ADT) organization has a mission to increase data transparency. That is why when the organization was founded the focus was on transparency—not right or wrong.  Transparent companies should be able to answer the ADT’s ten questions about how they collect, store, share, use, and delete farmers’s data. For the ADT, transparency means being honest with farmers and treating them fairly. 

Finally, here are my thoughts on what “data transparency” means, taking from all of these ideas. There are three key elements to any transparent data contract. It must be (1) clear; (2) simple; and (3) honest.  “Clear” means that the agreement is written to be understandable by the farmer. “Simple” means that agreement is concise. Really long agreements can be written in plain English, but that does not make them transparent. And finally, “honest” means that the important information is not buried in fine print. Many contracts are accurate, but they hide the key parts so that the reader does not really understand what they are signing. That is not transparency.

How do you define data transparency?