Companies like Facebook and Google make a lot of money off of collecting people’s data as they browse the web, scroll through social media, and buy things online. California Governor Gavin Newsom wants tech companies to give the rewards they’ve reaped selling that data back to you, reports CNET.
“We recognize that your data has value,” Newsom said during his State of the State speech on Feb. 12. “And it belongs to you.”
Washington State had a similar idea in 2017 when they proposed a state tax on the sale of personal data, but the bill was ultimately defeated largely due to the efforts of private business groups.
Newsom wants to direct the conversation away from taxation and towards privacy, an issue that Americans have become increasingly concerned about. A data dividend, in which Americans would be able to choose to sell their data, rather than large corporations just taking it, would prioritize consent and privacy.
As the home to Silicon Valley, a hub for tech giants and startups alike, California has largely been at the core of the privacy conversation. They have passed relatively advanced laws that aim to protect citizens, such as the recently passed data privacy protection law, which gives users more comprehensive control over their data and laws that protect students’ privacy and prevent employers from requiring workers to hand over passwords to their personal accounts.
Common Sense Media, the organization that initiated California’s Student Online Personal Information Protection Act in 2014, will be heading the drafting process on this new legislation. They expect to submit a draft of the bill soon.
“While platforms are fast and loose with consumer data, they are not so willing to share what they are doing with the data or how much they are profiting,” said Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media. “We fully support the Governor’s data dividend proposal and expect to introduce legislation that reflects that in the coming weeks.”
Princeton economist Glen Weyl sees this as an opportunity for citizens to get a return on their data profits, but also to regulate AI as machine learning grows more sophisticated and starts eliminating the need for many human jobs. “This is more of a big-picture answer to the questions about AI,” he said, “rather than a huge check in the near future.”