This Privacy Awareness Week, discover four ways agriculture and food companies can enhance data privacy and trust in a quickly changing digital landscape.
For an industry that has traditionally cultivated trust face-to-face and emphasizes relationship building, it’s important to translate this approach to the digital world. This Privacy Awareness Week, we explore how agriculture and food companies can prioritize data privacy and trust, even as they embrace rapid technological change.
“For our food system to have a better flow of information and improve business outcomes, we need more data sharing up and down the value chain,” says Mike Santostefano, VP of agriculture data exchange at TELUS Agriculture. “This requires a strong foundation of trust where all parties understand how their data is being collected, stored and managed and also benefit fairly from its use.”
He shares four recommendations for companies to shift data practices to help accomplish this.
The agriculture and food industry can learn from other areas like big tech and insurance, where data breaches and misuse have harmed consumer trust and invited regulatory scrutiny. Adopting more transparent practices can help companies avoid similar pitfalls. Such practices include being upfront about how data is used or not used, collecting only necessary information, not selling data to a third-party without consent and de-identifying data to remove personal information for use in analysis and aggregation.
“We often compare our industry to healthcare in terms of digital transformation but it’s also applicable for data privacy,” states Santostefano. “We could improve trust significantly if we treat our data like we treat patient data – as personal and highly sensitive – and give data owners the controls and tools to help govern use.”
An uptick of digital tools and systems is driving the aggregation and consolidation of information. With so much data being generated, understanding what’s being collected and how it will be used is crucial to creating trust. To support this, companies can make their privacy policies easy to find, ensure personal data portability, and add clarity around their data use.
“Data privacy should be a core corporate responsibility on par with sustainability as it can have a huge impact on a company’s brand trust and reputation,” advises Santostefano. “It’s important for companies to observe data best practices and regulations and educate their users so they can provide informed consent.”
To unlock the full value of data across the food system in ways that help productivity, planning and profitability while contributing to positive social, economic and environmental outcomes, having greater neutrality in shaping data governance and infrastructure is key. This can help build a greater sense of trust and navigate conflicts over data access and ownership.
“At TELUS Agriculture, we draw inspiration from our telecommunications roots in that we can offer the infrastructure and tools for data to be exchanged but have no vested interest in owning the data,” says Santostefano. “If we think of it like highways, we can help provide the roads but don’t dictate whose cars travel on them. We can enable companies with the controls and tools to leverage their data so that they can successfully go from point A to point B.”
To make the industry’s data privacy protocols and digital transformation successful, no company can go it alone. More systems and tools are leading to system and data silos and fragmentation – a weakness highlighted by COVID-19. Empty store shelves and increased food prices revealed how global and interconnected the food system is and brought home the importance of having more real-time supply chain data and visibility.
Working together can help regulate data practices and increase awareness of privacy standards. Collaboration can also enhance trust, support greater interoperability and make digital innovation more cost effective and achievable for all. But in doing so, Santostefano adds that companies must be comfortable with a level of co-opetition or working with a competitor to aggregate or optimize data to achieve a shared vision.
Now more than ever, companies need to focus on data privacy and foster trust to help realize data and tech potential.
“Digital acceleration will continue to be a defining part of our ag and food industry,” says Santostefano. “Working together now to build strong privacy practices and infrastructure can ensure everyone benefits. By doing so, companies can improve their bottom line, yields and efficiency while also addressing global challenges like producing more food, reducing food waste and maximizing our environmental resources.”
Learn how TELUS protects your privacy and promotes the responsible use of data for informed decisions.