How Much Is Your Personal Data Worth?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on July 05, 2019

We share a lot of our personal information online. Much of it is voluntary -- like filling out a Facebook profile and offering up our location, job and school history, age, and even date of birth. (How else would people remember to wish you Happy Birthday, after all?) And despite all the voluntary sharing we do, we often expect that the sites we share with won't involuntarily share our info with third parties.

But that happens. "Free" websites like Facebook, Google, and Amazon often make money selling personal data of their users to advertisers and other third parties. That data economy has, until recently, been entirely hidden from the very people whose information makes up that data. But that might be changing. A proposed law would require tech companies who resell user information to tell users how much their personal data is worth. Does that mean you can get paid?

Getting Value

As reported by Gizmodo, the Designing Accounting Safeguards to Help Broaden Oversight And Regulations on Data (DASHBOARD) Act would require the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to create and enforce regulations relating to the commercial disclosure of personal data:

Services with over 100 million monthly active users would be required to disclose what data is collected, how it’s being used, as well as provide a regularly updated assessment of that data’s value and an annual report totaling up the value of all the user data they collect in-house or with third-parties. The data operators would also be required to allow users to delete all or individual fields of data. The SEC would be tasked with developing methodologies for calculating data value.

"When a big tech company says its product is free, consumers are the ones being sold. These 'free' products track everything we do so tech companies can sell our information to the highest bidder and use it to target us with creepy ads," one of the bill's sponsors, Senator Josh Hawley said in a statement. "Even worse, tech companies do their best to hide how much consumer data is worth and to whom it is sold. This bipartisan legislation gives consumers control of their data and will show them how much these 'free' services actually cost."

Getting Paid

Good luck asking for those costs from Facebook now. Nothing in the proposed legislation requires tech giants to pass on a piece of their data profits to users. However, seeing how much your personal information is worth in the data economy may make you think twice about how much you decide to share online.

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