Does the Lion own the data?

In Botswana on holiday this year and had the very good fortune to see Lions in the Chobe game reserve on the northern border with Namibia.If you look closely you will see that one of the female lions has a tag around her neck.It turns out that an American accademic was tracking the Pride as part of a research project. This set me thinking – Who owns the data? And more to the point – who should own the data?  
Photo copywrite David Rayner

We saw the Lions from Botswana where it’s illegal to interfere with wild animals. The lions roam freely and have no reason to keep to the game reserve confines, so their protection is good but not guaranteed. Tourism generates important income for Botswana through hotels, guides and game reserve entrance fees. All told – knowing where the lions move, hunt and spend their time clearly has many benefits for a lot of people in the area. 
So who owns the data? The academics who provide the monitoring equipment have the exclusive rights to collect the data. No information is made available to any other parties.

Think about this. The lions are nominally an asset of the Game reserve which is either directly or indirectly paid for by tourism via local guides who collect entrance fees and enable local business to service the tourist industry. When we saw the lions we were quickly joined by a horde of other tourists in their trucks. We all had a great experience – but what was the impact on the lions wellbeing? Could staggered viewing and a greater likelihood of seeing the animals both increase the income for the reserve and lower the tourism impact? Also think about the locals – mostly farmers – living in simple huts. For them a lion can quickly become a pest. I am sure they would love to know when the local pride is in the area and they should look to their live stock.

In this case the lion doesn’t care about the data – but the locals do, they can see great benefits that they are missing out on.  

Next time you share information with Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook or that new funky running app, ask yourself – Does the lion own the data?