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The Tech Equestrian

Welcome to the new normal. Technology is everywhere and effects everyone and everything. To keep up with the changes and information that impacts the equestrian world, I hope you will enjoy the stories, profiles and insights this blog features. In addition, stay connected on social by joining the Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages!

Legal Insights on Knowing Your Data Rights to Protect Yourself and Your Horse

Legal Insights on Knowing Your Data Rights to Protect Yourself and Your Horse

After having The Tech Equestrian Advisory Board provide feedback on how they use customer data and their thoughts on the future of data in the April blog post, we thought it would be important to also have a legal perspective. Luckily I met Madison Wiles-Haffner, a lawyer at Finn Dixon & Herling LLP and fellow equestrian at this year’s Equestrian Businesswomen Summit (EQBW Summit) in West Palm Beach and discussed story ideas. 

Q: As a consumer, what type of control do you have over your data?
A: Currently in the U.S. consumers don’t have much control over their data, and what little control they do have varies state by state. On the federal level, the Federal Trade Commission has regulations requiring companies to disclose their privacy policies to customers on what data they are collecting and how that data will be used. While this does not give consumers control over their data, it does allow them to make an informed decision about what data they want to provide. States such as California and Vermont, which recently enacted legislation regulating how data brokers can collect and sell consumer information, take consumer privacy rights very seriously. While this seems to be the trend, these states are still the only two that have passed regulation surrounding this point. That being said, because most companies have some sort of online component to their business and therefore inevitably interact with customers in these two states, they have to comply with such regulation. Thanks to California and Vermont, we are slowly seeing limits on how data can be used and giving some control back to consumers.

Madison with a horse she leased, The Situation.

Madison with a horse she leased, The Situation.

Q: What steps should horse owners take to make sure their horse’s information doesn't get compromised?
A: The abundance of data that is currently floating around could provide us, as equestrians, with incredibly valuable insight into our horses’ health, genealogy and performance, but in the wrong hands, this data can be abused and compromised. In this regard, horse owners should be careful about what information they are putting out there. To use most equestrian apps and technology driven products, users have to opt into sharing their data, frequently without any parameters on the use of such data. Horse owners should be conscious about what they are choosing to disclose and know that they run the risk of such data being shared and/or comprised. Horse owners should read any privacy policies that a company or product might have and understand how this data is being used and/or shared, if at all.

The GDPR protects individuals against export of their personal data outside of the European Union and European Economic Area.

The GDPR protects individuals against export of their personal data outside of the European Union and European Economic Area.

Q: Europe passed the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) act last year, what does that mean and do you think something like this will be approved for in the U.S.?
A: The General Data Protection Regulation (the “GDPR”) is a regulation that began being enforced in the European Union late last year and regulates data protection and privacy for anyone within the European Union and European Economic Area. The GDPR protects individuals against export of their personal data outside of the European Union and European Economic Area. The U.S. does not have a similar regulation in place at the moment however, there have been several legislative attempts at passing similar regulation, which would create guidelines and parameters around the use of consumer data, but all have failed so far. The legislature even recently proposed measures which would make consumer privacy a basic right. Although no federal measures have been taken thus far, with increasing states taking privacy protection measures more seriously and passing state regulations, the federal government will likely follow suit in due time.

Q: As a lawyer what type of cases are you seeing as it relates to data privacy/data security? What can equestrians learn from that?
A: My work is primarily focused on the corporate sector. From this vantage point, we have seen heightened measures around data security and implementation of privacy policies, as well as increased mechanisms which need to be put into effect as companies harness data. For instance, drafting a compliant privacy policy is now one of the first tasks that I accomplish when working with startup companies. This does not necessarily protect the consumer, but rather, ensures that companies are properly disclosing how consumer data will be used.

There are several up and coming apps and equestrian companies that are harnessing such data. From an equestrian’s perspective, it is important to be mindful of what information you are sharing when you sign up for these types of apps and programs and know how the data that you provide will be used and/or shared. To that end, bear in mind that much of what companies are asking for when you sign up is optional – you frequently do not have to provide all of the data asked for if you do not want to.

Q: How do you think data (handled safely) can help the equestrian world? Please provide examples.
A: Data can be an extremely powerful tool, if handled correctly and safely, and can provide many benefits to our industry. For example, data harnessed through an app such as Hylofit, if shared with veterinarians, could provide valuable insight as to equine health and management and even lead to new product development. Relating to the longevity of the sport and general promotion, data collected by, or shared with, the USEF could inform the USEF’s rule-making, breed promotion and preservation, or even show and clinic schedules and locations.

In high-profile sports - such as tennis, golf, baseball, etc - data is driving more engagement with fans - will we see that in the horse world?

In high-profile sports - such as tennis, golf, baseball, etc - data is driving more engagement with fans - will we see that in the horse world?

Q: In high-profile sports - such as tennis, golf, baseball, etc - data is driving more engagement with fans; do you see that coming into the equestrian sport world and how can event producers make sure they use the information wisely?
A: Data could be beneficial in driving more engagement with fans in the equestrian sport world, and should, in my opinion, absolutely be utilized to make the sport more accessible and relatable to general audiences. I already see it coming into play – for example, I am based in the greater New York City area and after sending texts to my friends about attending an upcoming show in the area, I have been receiving advertisements on my social media feeds about purchasing tickets for the show. If event producers have purchased the data they are using, then they should be sure to adhere to the terms of the purchase of such data so that they do not run the risk of using the data in a manner that runs afoul to such agreement. If they have collected the data themselves through user registrations, etc., then they need to ensure that they have a compliant privacy policy in place which sets forth what information is being collected and how they intend to use it. No matter how the event producer is collecting data, they should ensure that they have data security measures established so as to avoid a leak of customer data including sensitive data such as credit cards, etc.

Q: Are there any litigation pitfalls with all this new data in the horse world? Could a professional say they used x product and it had adverse affects on their horses performance? What should horse tech vendors do to protect their product claims?
A: While we have not yet seen any litigation pertaining to data as its use is currently trending in the horse world, there are certainly a number of areas that might be problematic, which horse tech vendors should be protecting themselves against. To avoid these pitfalls, tech vendors should always put disclaimers on their products and applications so as to release themselves from liability related to performance, results and health of the horse. Equestrians should not be relying on these tech products to achieve results, but merely using them to create informative data points.

Q: What are you most excited about in the equestrian world as it pertains to technology?
A: Technology has opened up so many doors in the equestrian world. I am most excited to see how technology can provide insight into what our horses are thinking and feeling and seeing how we can use this information to inform and guide our decisions when it comes to our horses’ health and performance. From a lawyer’s perspective, I am curious to see how harnessing data like this may impact competition in the show ring and the rules that surround it. How will the rules surrounding equestrian competition account for the growing popularity of tech and data and the use of such information in the show ring? What new rules will need to be implemented to keep the competition at a level playing field? I am interested to see how the USEF will account for this, if the need arises.

TTE Advisory Board: Horse Tech Partnerships

TTE Advisory Board: Horse Tech Partnerships

TTE Advisory Board: The Data Dilemma

TTE Advisory Board: The Data Dilemma