Sir Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626) once said “Knowledge is Power”
Its nearly 2008 and even after 400 years things have not changed that much. Data is knowledge, therefore today, data is power.
Why is it then that agents put up with portals using our data for their own gains? The major portals have all done deals to provide our data to other companies. Domain sends the agents data it collects to APM and REA send it to RPData.
REA relies on a very open ended clause in their terms and conditions that states “by using the Service, you grant us an irrevocable, world-wide, royalty free licence to commercialise, copy, license to other persons, use and adapt for any purpose any material you generate or submit to make use of the Service.” No doubt Domain has a similar such clause.
REA would argue that this sort of clause is required so can have agents properties on other portals like ninemsn but because it is so open ended the portals use the benefits of these clauses to send your data to a partner companies.
With access to live data of properties for sale and sold, companies like RPDATA and APM have rolled out or are in the process of rolling out new data solutions such as offering market and investment reports to the public, all for a fee of course. I believe that in some cases, agents are being resold their own processed data back again. If the agents were getting a benefit out of this then you can bet the marketing departments from the portals would be yelling it from the rooftops. Instead, the authority is hidden away in the terms and conditions.
I was assured by a senior staff member of one of the major portals that they only sent publicly available information to their associated data partner. The argument being that the information could be scraped anyway. It turns out that was easily proved incorrect and after his own investigations he has confirmed that other data outside of what is being publicly displayed is being sent in that data feed.
Where is the damage in all this to us, the agents? There are dozens of scenarios if not more that could affect you but here is a couple that might.
Your client database is valuable. The larger and more up to date and accurate it is, the more valuable it is as a vital part of your goodwill. Ask any agent who has sold his sales business recently. They will tell you how their established client database increased their sale price or how the lack of such a database cost them money.
What if your opposition was offered a database containing the names and addresses, property details, sales details, photos, contact phone numbers of every single sale your agency has made in the past 10 years. Remember the terms and conditions you agreed with allowed an irrevocable, world-wide, royalty free licence to commercialise, copy, license to other persons. Effectively these companies can do what they like with any information you put in the back end of a portal and you have no say in it.
I have posed these very same questions but am still awaiting a response.
I believe that agents should have to opt in for any third party to receive our data plus have the ability to opt out at any time and that all such feeds be transparent and not cloaked in secrecy behind some all encompassing clause in the terms and conditions. I believe that agents should decide where their data is sent because ultimately we will be responsible for its misuse. We should always be in control of our own data, and remain in power in this industry.