There's no such thing as a 'free' online, but how much is our data really worth?

There's no such thing as a 'free' online, but how much is our data really worth?

Two US senators want to bring in a law that forces providers of larger platforms such as Amazon, Facebook and Google to disclose the value of user data. This should help users to understand how they pay for these services.

Many services on the Internet seem to be free, such as Facebook, Instagram, Google and YouTube. But ultimately, users pay with their data. In the digital age, this data is our most important asset, according to the two US senators Mark Warner (D-Virginia) and Josh Hawley (R-Missouri).

With their bill, the senators want to make it possible to recognize the value of sharing location data, their relationship status, age, gender or simply information about the apps used with popular platforms. "If you're an avid Facebook user, chances are Facebook knows more about you than the US government," Warner said. Users do not realize how much data these platforms actually collect and what this data is worth.

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Our data is our most important asset, according to two US senators / © 13_Phunkod / Shutterstock

The two senators want to reach a level of awareness - it is not about getting the users money for their data. How much your data is actually worth is not yet clear either. Some estimates assume about $5 per month, others about $20 per month, depending on the user.

The draft law stipulates that companies that generate revenue by collecting and processing data and have at least 100 million active users per month must inform them every 90 days what data they collect, how it is used and what it is worth.

Data to become portable

The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) would have to develop methods to calculate this value. In addition, the companies concerned would have to offer possibilities so that users can delete all or part of their data. Of course, providers like Facebook or Google are not enthusiastic about this. From the ranks of the providers, it has already been said in the past that it is impossible to quantify the exact value of user data. However, Warner calls this argument "nonsense". The companies would know very well how they can use personal data and what it is worth.

There are increasing calls in US politics to split up large tech companies. Warner does not think this is necessarily necessary as long as companies adopt measures such as his draft law. In a few weeks, Warner also wants to introduce a bill to guarantee that data is portable. This means that users can easily take their data with them when changing platforms. If, however, the technology industry does not prove itself open to such measures, Warner said that it will very quickly become an argument of those who demand the splitting up of the bigger companies.

What do you think about this idea? Should it be clearer what will be done with your data and what it is worth? Let us know in the comments.

Source: Axios

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  • Gavin Runeblade Jun 26, 2019 Link to comment

    I like the idea of the law but I don't know the details well enough to know how intelligble it will be. Will they be able to pull the jargon equivalent of "natural flavors" in an ingredients lists, which really means "a ton of cancer-causing chemicals that we don't want to admit we use but they taste vaguely like some food you would recognize so we'll just say 'natural flavors'".
    If they just have to say "location data" and don't have to explain "we know how often you use the restroom and which floor of the building your office is located on; and we correlate that data with other uses to know who you spend time with and how often" it is a very different bit of information. Or if they only have to say "access to microphone while lock screen is on" and don't have to say "we track your breathing at night while you sleep, and we know when you have sex, and we use AI to understand when you're talking to your kids and when to your friends and how often you talk about a product before buying it", again totally different bits of information.

    If they can pull the "natural flavors" crap, then the bill doesn't actually give us any useful information.