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Should tech companies pay you for your data? The Governor of California says yes

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California Governor Gavin Newsom and the state’s lawmakers have begun work on a pursuit of putting a financial value on the user data and personal information collected by various companies. With a legal battle underway over the California Consumer Privacy act, this new pursuit seems rather ambitious. Gov. Newsom has put together a team to create a payment system based on “data dividends” for businesses to pay the users before selling their personal data.

This concept of charging businesses for harvesting user data was widely discussed among Silicon Valley for years. It was seen as a way to tackle the rise of automation and the termination of many jobs because of it. As of now, there is a heavy ongoing debate about how the proposed “data dividend” system must work.

Senator Bob Hertzberg, who co-authored the California Consumer Privacy Act said the following about this new pursuit by Gov. Newsom:

“[A data dividend] is a hard problem to solve. I see it as a societal issue. We have the potential to monetize people’s value and ask: How do we create assets the common good can enjoy that?”

As of now, Gov. Newsom had put together a team that will closely work with the national data scientists as well as the legislators for creating the so-called “data dividend.” Apart from this, other state lawmakers have also started their own discussions with several experts. Plans proposed by a governor need legislative approval. Proposing even one such plan will lead to the creation of a legislative committee which would further study the issue in depth.

Social media platforms, insurance companies, e-commerce companies and several more harvest user data and make hefty profits by selling them or leverage them for targeted advertising. There isn’t any law that requires these companies to state the kind of data being collected and what is precisely done with it.

Several scandals in the recent past such as the Cambridge Analytica event have by and by increased people’s awareness towards data harvesting and collecting personal information for financial gains and more.

One of the biggest challenges faced by the government while creating the “data dividend” is to determine the worth of the data. Tech companies have sophisticated processes and experts who bifurcate users into several groups and define who’s worth what. But the public officials have no such information. It will be interesting to see how this proposal turns out and what the future outcomes of the “data dividend” will be like.

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