Blog Post, by FUEL Enterprises

The already complex issue of data ownership is only getting more complicated. As cloud services become more commonplace and data generated by the Internet of Things grows exponentially, an ever-larger number of devices and applications is generating information. The question is, who really owns your valuation data? Maybe you do—or maybe you don’t.

The fact is, you own your valuation data—and any other data—only to the degree that you can access it, integrate it and use it to innovate. The hard truth about applications you use during the business day is that your vendors may own the data—and the scary part is that you may not even know it. So, before buying, licensing or subscribing to a technology product, you need to determine the extent to which you will retain control of your data. 

Why Data Ownership is Tricky

The big problem with data, of course, is that a company that gathers or generates significant data may package and sell it to other parties. For example, the core business of an online commercial property listing service is to help brokers market their properties. However, this company also aggregates and sells property market data as a product. Similarly, many major real estate service providers aggregate, anonymize and package client corporate real estate data for use in benchmarking services.

In the retail world, many retailers sell consumer purchase data to credit reference agencies or bureaus, and other data aggregators. These agencies or bureaus anonymize the data, package it, analyze it and sell it, along with indices and scores, to marketers. As a consumer, you generate data every time you make a purchase—and you immediately lose control of that purchase data.

How the Internet of Things Affects Ownership of Data

With the growth of cloud services and the Internet of Things, a growing number of businesses are relying on third parties for IT infrastructure, applications and data storage. Through the Internet of Things, billions of devices are collecting data—far more data than a typical desktop computer can analyze or store. Cloud-based applications and infrastructure have the capacity that enables users to aggregate and analyze all that Big Data to uncover valuable trends and insights.

The data has value for the company creating it and for the cloud service providers who provide the data storage and analytics services. However, data provenance and ownership becomes muddied when different entities are involved in generating, storing and analyzing the data.   

How to Ensure You Own Your Valuation Data

So, with so many blurred lines surrounding the ownership of data, how can you make sure that you retain conrol of your data? The key is to carefully read the service licensing agreements with any third-party technology company you use and ensure that you understand the terms and the implications for your data. You need to pay close attention to what data your company is sharing, who they are sharing it with and whether your technology vendors will claim ownership of this data in the future. Beware that cloud service providers who provide free storage or applications will likely want to collect, package and commoditize your data for sale to other companies.

The Bottom Line

Using cloud-based valuation software and leveraging your valuation data can be a powerful differentiator for brokerages, investors, owners, investment managers, and appraisal companies. CRE companies thrive when every decision-maker has immediate access to any data point. That’s why using valuation software with an application programming interface (API) is important—an API enables seamless integration of real-time data from other sources for creating custom reports, retrieving comps and other essential activities.  

However, controlling access to the data is another question When choosing a cloud application or data storage provider, you need to ensure that you know who owns the data, how the data can be accessed, who can access it and what your service providers do with your data. Commercial real estate is part of the information business and valuation data is highly valuable. The last thing you would want is for your tech service provider to own all of your valuation data and sell it to a competing firm.

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