U.S. Bill Would Require Companies to Disclose the Dollar Value of User Data

Tech companies may be forced to reveal how much the individual users’ data is worth under newly-proposed legislation in the US.

Companies, including the world’s largest social media and technology companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google would, under new legislation being put forward to the U.S. Senate be forced to reveal precisely how much an individual’s data is worth to them.

Senators Mark Warner and Josh Hawley have announced plans to next week introduce a bill that would mandate transparency from tech and social media companies that ultimately sell your data to advertisers for specifically targeted marketing campaigns.

They would, in essence, be forced to tell you exactly how much the data they have on you is worth, which the senators argue will help inform a consumer’s choice of whether or not to use the platform.

Senator Warner said that “these companies take enormous, enormous amounts of data about us… 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 realise how much that data is worth.”

The bill is known as the Designing Accounting Safeguards to Help Broaden Oversight and Regulations on Data Act, or DASHBOARD, for short. It would require companies that generate revenue through data collection, processing and sales to fully disclose the type of data collected, how it was used, and to provide an estimated valuation of that data once every 90 days.

In response to the claim that it’s too difficult to calculate an exact figure for specific user data, Senator Warner said that “if these companies - go back to Facebook - can do all these acquisitions and many of these acquisitions were made on what appeared to be outrageous prices - they had a pretty darn good notion of how they could use that data and how much that was worth from one platform to another.”

Companies would also be required to disclose the aggregate value of all their users’ data to the Securities and Exchange Commission. It would also include the details of contracts with third parties for data collection, how the revenue is generated by user data, as well as a description of the measures taken to protect it.

In addition to these, companies would be required to provide clear settings and the ability for users to partially or fully delete their data.

“If they’re not willing to work with us on this kind of, I think, rational, focused reform, then I may very quickly join the crowd that simply says, ‘you know, let’s break them up,” Warner said. “And I say that as somebody who was a technology entrepreneur longer than I’ve been a senator.”

The story was first broken by Axios who puts it this way: “two decades ago, consumers made a bargain- we traded our data in exchange for using ‘free’ sites like Facebook, Instagram, Google, Youtube and Twitter. [Senator] Warner says he wants consumers to be more informed about the real value of what they give up in the form of, for example, location data, relationship status, data about the apps we use, our age, gender and lifestyle.”

“Tech companies are reluctant to disclose specifics of how users data is gathered, shared and sold,” according to Axios. “There’s little chance they’ll be interested in putting a dollar figure on how much that data - in the core of their business - is actually worth to them.

Some estimates published put the figure anywhere between $5-20 USD per month, while some analysts say the number is higher.

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