Information Act. A patchwork of laws, often poorly enforced, addresses restrictions on public agency use and disclosure of individual data (Onsrud et al., 1994). In GIS, private sector operations, fearing loss of data or proprietary advantage, have been reluctant to participate in multipurpose land information systems where their data would be intermingled with other data in a public system (i.e., private utilities participating in local land records systems). By analogy, public-private cooperation in precision agriculture could be inhibited.
Several groups advocated changes to current law to clarify intellectual property rights in databases. The National Information Infrastructure Task Force suggested several revisions to copyright law to incorporate changes related to information technologies without fundamentally changing the system (U.S. Information Infrastructure Task Force, 1995). The American Farm Bureau Federation (1995), in a white paper on information technologies, advocated statutory revision of the Copyright Act to protect databases developed from collections of farm-and field-specific information. The American Committee for Interoperable Systems argued that copyright should not be used to inhibit interoperability of operating systems and software across computer platforms (American Committee for Interoperable Systems, 1994).
Producers have expressed reservation that precision agriculture data may be used by government agencies for regulatory purposes. These new sources of information, however, will have the same privacy protections against use by government agencies as traditional sources of farm information, such as farm records, weigh bills, and other private documents.
Data collected for use at the subfield and field levels have additional value for research, testing, evaluation, and marketing when assembled into regional databases. Mechanisms are needed to create these databases and make the data available for these additional uses including data collection and transfer standards; institutions for collecting, managing, or networking data; and policies to facilitate data sharing and access, while protecting proprietary interests and confidentiality.
As valuable as precision agriculture data may prove to be to individual landowners, much of the potential value of the huge amount of electronic data that could be collected by these technologies will not be realized unless the individual farm databases are consolidated into regional databases. These would not be averages or other statistical summaries of detailed data, but massive compilations of the detailed data itself, without information identifying individual farms from which the data are collected. Summaries might be made from these data for some purposes, but the detailed data needs to be accessible for analysis and modeling of relationships between inputs and outputs, including environmental outcomes;