Data retention policies represent a set of guidelines that outlines data will be archived, how long it will be kept, how it will be removed, and either destructed or returned to the farmer. The American Farm Bureau Federation’s “Privacy and Security Principles for Farm Data” includes the principle of Data Retention and Availability stating that “Each ATP (Ag Technology Provider) should provide for the removal, secure destruction and return of original farm data from the farmer’s account upon the request of the farmer or after a pre-agreed period of time. The ATP should include a requirement that farmers have access to the data that an ATP holds during that data retention period. ATPs should document personally identifiable data retention and availability policies and disposal procedures, and specify requirements of data under policies and procedures.” Similar to other principles outlined in the AFBF document, the data retention and availability policies and procedures should be clear and concise so that growers are fully aware of how their data is being managed.
Key elements of this principle include the need for famers to understand the period of time in which data will remain in an ATP’s system and if removed through a farmer’s request, is destructed or returned. The request process to retrieve and remove data from a system should be noted in a contract with an ATP. Farmers, who should have access to their data at all times, must understand the exact availability options provided by their ATP. An important part of data retention and availability is the protection that comes with utilizing an ATP for data management. Farmers need to be assured that their personally identifiable information (PII) is protected and that data is being properly destroyed to limit leaks of protected and confidential data. Of note, GPS tagged or georeferenced data could be considered personally identifiable information, so keep this point in mind.
Understanding how data is being stored, for how long, and how that data will be destroyed upon the termination of the agreed upon contract or retention timeline is imperative to farmers. By having an understanding of data retention and availability policies, farmers have more power to access their own data as well as the peace of mind that the data is being stored and saved with the farmer’s best interest in mind.