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There might not be a single company not harvesting data these days … from an auctioneer in the middle of nowhere collecting phone numbers and email addresses of today’s bidders to a Chinese company hacking Facebook, accumulating millions of data points on those users.

Some data is essentially stolen, while other data is offered up (knowingly or unknowingly) by the customer in trade for some sort of benefit. It happens every time a person uses his or her phone, a computer, signs up for anything online, or buys from virtually any retailer.

The key question is, “Who owns this data?” The answer is often not quite clear, nor even discussed. For auction platforms and other vendors “helping” auctioneers, we recommend you as an auctioneer discuss it: Who owns my bidder data? Who owns my sales data? Is it my bidder/sales data or yours?

For that matter, where will my name, address, telephone number and/or email address be housed, distributed, shared, and/or sold? Who besides the vendor I’m doing business with today know we did business? Do I have options to protect my personal information from further disclosure?

The National Auctioneers Association (NAA) recently released a statement in this regard:

The National Auctioneers Association encourages auction entrepreneurs to actively monitor markets and proactively manage their personal and company brand(s) with special attention to the ownership of bidder and sales data. When engaging with any vendor or service provider the NAA recommends understanding data ownership, data sharing, cooperative branding, and long term industry impacts.

As the NAA suggests, the questions go beyond merely who owns the data and include the sharing of data and the long term impacts of such. Essentially, is the provider you are partnering with using your (or their) data to compete against you or help your competitor(s)?

Further, will ownership, sharing, and the like change down the road? Is there any assurance title to data could be different in light of mergers or acquisitions, for example? Or could terms and conditions concerning any data be modified unilaterally?

Data ownership and the authority to use and share are sure to be discussed for years to come, with the pendulum of rights I expect swinging back to the client/customer in many respects. The NAA’s guidance here is prudent and noteworthy for any auctioneer in business today.

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, CAS, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, RES Auction Services and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. He serves as Distinguished Faculty at Hondros College, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School, an Instructor at the National Auctioneers Association’s Designation Academy and America’s Auction Academy. He is faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University and is approved by The Supreme Court of Ohio for attorney education.