The debate on whether data will become another status symbol -- an asset line on a company’s balance sheet -- brings into question the value of consumer data and who owns it.
Early on in the use of the Internet, consumers agreed to freely use services such as Gmail and Facebook in exchange for giving these platform providers information about themselves. Now these companies -- along with Amazon, Microsoft and others -- sit on a gold mine of data.
Senators Mark Warner and Josh Hawley want platform companies to estimate how much consumers pay for these services in data.
The two will introduce legislation on Monday to require platform companies and others that collect consumer data to disclose the value of their users' data. The news was first reported Sunday evening in an interview on "Axios on HBO."
“People don't realize one, how much data is being collected -- and two, they don't realize how much that data is worth,” Warner said.
Axios reports that the legislation, introduced Monday as the Designing Accounting Safeguards to Help Broaden Oversight and Regulations on Data Act (DASHBOARD), would require companies that generate material revenue from data collection or processing and have more than 100 million monthly users to disclose to users the types of data collected as well as how it is used, and to provide an assessment of the value of that data once every 90 days.
The bill would require these companies to disclose annually to the Securities and Exchange Commission the aggregate value of all of their users' data, including details of contracts with third parties for data collection, how revenue is generated by user data, and measures taken to protect that data.
This would help the SEC develop methods to calculate the value of user data, and would provide a tool for consumers to delete all or part of their data, according to the report.
Platform providers and data companies may know how much their customer data is worth, but few talk about it. In April 2018, Facebook said it would need to charge between $11 and $14 per month to offer an ad-free platform or offer the service as a subscription basis.
The bill is intended to help consumers understand what they may be giving up -- as well as to demand that companies become more transparent about what they gain from the data.
Individuals will not be paid for the use of their data, but they will know the worth of that data to the company collecting it.
An article published on Medium by Wibson -- a blockchain decentralized marketplace that helps individuals monetize their data -- estimates its worth at least $240 annually, but likely much more.
While Warner -- who estimates a month’s worth of data for one individual at between $5 and $20 -- is not in favor of breaking up tech companies, a separate bill introduced by him would require tech firms to make data portable so consumers can move it from one platform to another.