• By Adam Allen

Attempts to implement Andrew Yang’s Data Dividend Project are underway: consumers should have more r


Andrew Yang believes that people should have rights to their information. Visit https://www.datadividendproject.com/ for more information. Photo courtesy of Inside Hook.

Former Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang has begun to champion a new policy movement called the Data Dividend Project that aims to monetarily compensate individual consumers by providing them property rights to their own personal data.

“Facebook is worth 650 billion dollars, most of that based on the monetization of our data. They should be paying us for our data,” said Andrew Yang on his podcast, “Yang Speaks.”

Everyone’s personal data is being mined and sold every time we do something in this information economy, in fact, the Google searches done for this article are likely to produce YouTube suggestions on economics for the next week. This is a common and concrete example of how companies use data to generate advertising revenue.

Data becomes more valuable as it is layered. For example, rental car data is not very valuable by itself, but if an advertiser can obtain one’s rental car data, hotel history, google searches, location information and purchase records, it can be put together that the person just took a weekend trip. Once this happens, an advertiser will start sending hotel ads for weekend getaways. All this information is buried in the user agreements we all sign without reading. The Data Dividend Project plans to rectify this issue by redefining our access to property rights.

“In economics, property rights form the basis for all market exchange, and the allocation of property rights in a society affects the efficiency of resource use,” said Will Kenton in his article, “Property Rights: The Ins and Outs.”

The policies defined by the Data Dividend Project grant individual consumers rights to their own data as though it were a form of intellectual property, entitling them to the legal protections and provisions similar to those granted to things like patents, copyrights or trademarks. Chiefly, this would entitle individuals to compensation from the firms who are collecting and profiting off the individual’s data or, alternatively, the legal grounds for litigation if they are not compensated.

The Data Dividend Project’s website said, “The sale and resale of consumer data is called data brokering, which is itself a $200 billion industry. For example, technology companies can extract location data from your mobile phone and sell it to advertisers who can then turn around and post local ads to you in real time.”

Several attempts to implement the values of the Data Dividend Project are currently underway through legislation. Laws like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) help to enforce the project along with laws recently passed in Nevada and Maine all working to grant individual consumers property rights. Additionally, bills currently proposed in 10 other states are designed to explicitly grant individuals legal rights to their data. The threat of class action litigation is currently present in three active suits against Google, Facebook, and Yahoo for the preservation of these proposed property rights.

The Data Dividend Project is still in its infancy, but it does seem to represent an interesting movement towards using market-oriented solutions to protect and expand the rights of individuals in this modern information economy.

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