Andrew Yang Proposes the Introduction of “Data Dividends” in the United States

By Bill Toulas / June 25, 2020

Andrew Yang, a successful entrepreneur and progressive political persona who was also a presidential candidate until recently, has presented the “Data Dividend Project” (DDP). As he puts it simply, the data belongs to the people, and if this data has value, it should be their owners who make money out of its “exploitation” first. Right now, those who collect people’s data are the only ones to monetize them, while people just get free services in return. Data is a $200 billion industry right now and growing, so Andrew Yang calls for a fundamental change.

As the A. Yang explains, people could receive something like $20, or $50, or even $100 yearly on their PayPal or Cash App, as a dividend for sharing their information with data brokers. They would then tell their friends and families, and these people would demand cash, too, suddenly valuing their data with something tangible. Yang suggests that the project could start with the state of California, where the CCPA law applies, starting a nation-wide “data-as-your-property” movement in history. This sounds great, exactly like the Universal Basic Income of $1,000/month does, which also happens to be one of Yang’s proposals. However, the DDP has the potential to fire back.

Experts are warning that his seemingly radical approach of giving Americans the right to profit from their own data is basically like adding a tax for data hoarders. They will simply pay it and move on, invading people’s lives even further by engaging in more intrusive data collection. If applied, the DDP wouldn’t weaken the data brokering business, but instead, it would re-enforce it.

For example, Facebook made $70.7 billion in 2018, added on top of the $54.8 billion of its cash reserves. If the social media company were to pay $50 to 190 million Americans, they would pay a total of $9.5 billion. For Google, soaring above such a requirement would be even more comfortable as Alphabet makes double the amounts of what Facebook does.

That said, the goal shouldn’t be to put a small obstacle in their way but to stop them from collecting data in the first place. Putting a price tag in privacy and placing it in a transactional framework won’t help the people cherish their rights, but instead has the risk of incentivizing them to sell out. Finally, as legal experts warn, the CCPA is aimed at the exact opposite direction, so the connection between the law and the DDP proposal is unclear.

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