Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) introduced legislation today to require Facebook, Google, Amazon and other big platforms to disclose the value of their users’ data. The senators believe the legislation will help consumers to make more informed choices when they sign up for these platforms.
"These companies take enormous, enormous amounts of data about us,” said Sen. Warner in an interview with Axios. “If you're an avid Facebook user, chances are Facebook knows more about you than the U.S. 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,” said the senator.
The bill is entitled, Designing Accounting Safeguards to Help Broaden Oversight and Regulations on Data Act, or DASHBOARD.
Our personal data is "arguably our most valuable asset in the digital age," explained Axios, "but internet users don't have any way of knowing how much their data is actually worth."
Sen. Hawley said on Twitter, “Big Tech is taking your personal data without asking you. They should have to tell you how much it’s worth.”
The legislation proposed would also require companies to disclose the ways consumers’ data are being used. The bill would help consumers to understand what they are giving up with an “I agree” click. As the legislation states,
- The bill would require companies that generate material revenue from data collection or processing — and have more than 100 million monthly users — to disclose to users the types of data collected, how it is used, and to provide an assessment of the value of that data once every 90 days.
- It would require these companies to disclose annually to the Securities and Exchange Commission the aggregate value of all of their users' data. The report would have to include details of contracts with third parties for data collection, how revenue is generated by user data, and measures taken to protect that data.
- The bill would direct the SEC to develop methods for calculating the value of user data, accounting for varying uses, sectors, and business models.
- Companies must provide a setting or tool for users to delete all or part of their data.
There is a debate about the impact of the legislation. Lindsey Barrett, a staff attorney at Georgetown Law’s Institute for Public Representation Communications & Technology Clinic, said on twitter, “This isn’t unhelpful, but visibility into the value of data doesn’t limit how companies are able to digitally exploit people, and nor do deletion rights.”
On the other hand, David Carroll, an associate professor of media design at The New School, noted, “Good to add that this DASHBOARD Act puts a monetary value on personal data so that when it is abused consumers have an injury to seek damages against. It’s a start.”
Warner plans to introduce a separate bill as well that would require tech firms to make data portable so consumers can move it from one platform to another.