How much is your data worth to companies like Google and Facebook?
That’s the question US senators Mark Warner and Josh Hawley want answered by introducing a bill on Monday that, if successful, would require big tech companies to disclose to individual users the value of their information.
“Axios on HBO” first revealed the planned legislation, which will be titled the Designing Accounting Safeguards to Help Broaden Oversight and Regulations on Data Act, which has been given the acronym DASHBOARD.
In short, it would mean users of some of the biggest social media and search platforms on the internet would receive a report every 90 days on the types of information collected by these firms, and how much it is worth to them.
Putting a dollar figure on how much people’s data is worth is unlikely to be straightforward for the companies involved and the bill could provoke opposition. Warner told Axios that data — such as age, location, and relationship status — could be worth around $5 a month per user, but other estimates peg this figure higher.
What we do know is that firms like Google and Facebook hoard personal information to sell targeted advertising, generating billions of dollars in revenue. But big tech privacy scandals, including the Cambridge Analytica data breach, show this process is vulnerable to being exploited.
“These companies take enormous, enormous amounts of data about us,” Warner told Axios. “If you’re an avid Facebook user, chances are Facebook knows more about you than the US government knows about you. People don’t realize one, how much data is being collected; and two, they don’t realize how much that data is worth.”
The Democratic senator, who is also vice chair of the Select Committee on Intelligence, is supported by Republican Hawley in introducing DASHBOARD. Hawley introduced separate legislation last week that could strip tech giants of a legal protection that means they are not liable for content posted by users.
Axios reported that DASHBOARD would apply to companies with more than 100 million monthly users, meaning it would easily capture Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Amazon. It would also require them to disclose to the Securities and Exchange Commission the total value of their users’ data once a year.