Industry WoolQ portal data concerns unfounded – AWI

Terry Sim, July 4, 2018

AUSTRALIAN Wool Innovation has confirmed its new online wool portal WoolQ has unrestricted access to the data of wool growers who register with it, but said it had no intention of disseminating information to other people.

However, other sectors in the wool industry have issues with WoolQ’s collection of data and its use.

In a submission to the current AWI Review of performance and governance, AWH chief executive officer Michael Jones said that WoolQ’s End User Licensing Agreement has a waiver and clause granting AWI unrestricted rights to growers’ data.

He believed the extension of the data rights and privacy connected with WoolQ could potentially breach the intellectual property rights of brokers and AWH when processing wool for sale.

Mr Jones said AWH’s legal advice indicated that the value-added processes throughout the wool supply and logistics chain develop and grant rights to various participants who are carrying out activities with commercial interest, including brokers instructing AWH to sample the wool, collect test results and create or compile a sale sample.

“Inherent and directly implied in this contract is the ownership of data and intellectual property for the activities carried out on the proprietary IT platform owned by AWH.

“Accordingly, the extension of the data rights and privacy connected with the WEP could potentially breach the IP rights of brokers and AWH when processing the wool for sale.”

Mr Jones said because of these concerns, AWH refused to grant WoolQ access to data and formally supported AWEX in its denial of data to the AWI portal project. AWI has said it is continuing data-sharing discussions with AWH, the Australian Wool Exchange and the Australian Wool Testing Authority.

EULA data waiver is standard practice – AWI

In responses to Sheep Central questions attributed to WoolQ chairman Will Wilson, but received from AWI corporate communications manager Marius Cuming, Mr Wilson said the EULA waiver was standard practice.

“WoolQ is being built for the benefit of the wool growers, the transparency of wool exchange and to bring wool grower and wool buyer closer together,” Mr Wilson said.

“AWI obviously does not believe the development of WoolQ breaches any IP rights.”

AWI collecting data for WoolQ’s central repository

As well as potential online wool marketing platform, WoolQ is being promoted by AWI as the industry’s central data repository. At AWI’s 2016 annual general meeting AWI chief executive officer Stuart McCullough said as well as the usual wool production information on property and flock size, bloodlines and farming mix, the company wanted to know shareholders’ employment information, their use of AWI research and development, and publications. Wool growers’ website search preferences, topics of interest, key brands of interest, devices and platforms of choice were also on his list.

His AGM overheads indicated the AWI database already contained wool growers’ names, home phone numbers and addresses, as well as mobile phone numbers, email addresses, family member details and dates of birth. He said current information on AWI’s database, such as a shareholders’ levy number, their name, address and their home phone number was “interesting, but not that useful”. AWI was now working on obtaining data to build customer profiles, including personal profile, property and behavioural data, he said.

“We want a lot more profile data on them – we want to know what is happening on their property and once we get that, we want to understand how they are behaving, what websites they are using and how they are interacting with that.”

Mr Wilson said EULA waiver did not provide the potential for WoolQ, as a central repository of wool industry data, to become the industry’s ‘Facebook’, referring to the recent incident when the data of millions of Facebook users was accessed by political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

“AWI does not sell or provide personal information to third parties for financial benefit.”

Mr Wilson said more than 1100 individual wool growers have registered with WoolQ and over 340 business entities including brokers, buyers, exporters and wool classers have created profiles on WoolQ’s industry network.

Wool grower’s data is secure with WoolQ – Wilson

At the recent BestWool Best Lamb Conference in Bendigo, Mr Wilson said that wool growers’ data held in WoolQ was secure and would be collected on growers’ accounts.

“Just to put one thing very straight, we’re not using this data to disseminate to other people; we are just collecting the data and holding it in a specific grower’s wool grower account.

“It is not for anyone else, but for them, to make more informed decisions,” he said.

“Now yes we are going to wrap around that all the security measures that we need to make quite sure that data is secure,” he said.

“AWI collect a lot of data as you know, particularly about yourselves particularly if you are registered levy payers, which I’m sure we all are, so we’ve got those securities in place.

“Can I, hand on heart say, there will never be a breach, no I can’t, but we are certainly building in the latest and best security measures to make sure that data is safe.

Mr Wilson said this week wool growers understand that a key feature of WoolQ is a central repository for their annual clip data.

“By registering for WoolQ they are requesting this piece of functionality,” Mr Wilson said this week.

He also believed wool growers trust AWI and WoolQ enough to list their wool through the platform’s proposed online marketing option.

“Extensive consultation and discussion over the last four years confirms wool growers are looking forward to the exchange of wool moving into the digital age.”


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  1. Peter Small, July 4, 2018

    Any grower who provides data or information on their family, their property or their commercial operation to AWI, has rocks in their head. AWI is a statutory organisation; it is not a commercial operation and lacks commercial expertise. WoolQ, in itself, is evidence that AWI lacks expertise and knowledge as to how the world wool trade operates. Action undertaken under the guise of WoolQ is more likely to result, as with every statutory wool industry organisation that preceded it, to result in negative, not positive, outcomes for our industry.
    There is much that AWI could be attending to, which it won’t of course, because the politics of the ‘honey pot’ determines otherwise,

  2. susan finnigan, July 4, 2018

    Thank you for this article. I emailed AWI on June 26 asking why they needed so much information to register on the WoolQ portal, for example my Producer Identification Code. I have not had a reply.

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