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What is the significance of the owner of the Account for a portal user having a role?

Everything I read just says:  Give the owner a role.  However, I want to know which role!  I want to understand WHY the account owner needs to be part of the role heirarchy.  This isn't clear to me.  It's probably some simple salesforce security reason, but can somebody please explain this and how it affects the community users themselves?  I want my community users to be able to self-register.  
Roles are important for enforcing data security so that each portal user accesses only his own data, not that of other portal users.  With the appropriate role hierarchy, you can ensure that internal users higher in the role hierarchy have access to the portal user data where appropriate.