California Governor Gavin Newsom has asked his aides to create a “digital dividends” proposal for a plan that would allow consumers in the state to get a portion of the money that tech companies make from using their personal data.
The new governor announced his intentions in his State of the State delivered on Tuesday:
Companies that make billions of dollars collecting, curating and monetizing our personal data have a duty to protect it. Consumers have a right to know and control how their data is being used.
I applaud this legislature for passing the first-in-the-nation digital privacy law last year. But California’s consumers should also be able to share in the wealth that is created from their data. And so I’ve asked my team to develop a proposal for a new data dividend for Californians, because we recognize that your data has value and it belongs to you.
Newsom has joined a movement of advocates who believe consumers should get a cut when tech companies sell their data to other companies for targeted ads, market research, or other purposes.
The governor hasn’t shared any details about the proposal, and his office did not yet respond to a request for comment on the proposal. Newsom’s spokesperson told CBS News in a statement that the governor “is open to constructive input” from experts and legislators. CBS News reports Common Sense Media—a digital literacy and digital rights nonprofit group that helped the passing of California’s neutrality law last year—intends to propose legislation that will support Newsom’s proposal.
As CNN points out, the concept could be similar to an Alaska plan that gives citizens a share of annual state oil profits. Or the proposal could be set up in the form of data wages, in which people are paid based on the amount of data they share. Or it could be a tax on tech companies. At this point, the options are wide open.
While Common Sense Media and other digital rights advocates are applauding Newsom for championing an idea once viewed as fringe, at least one digital consumer advocate is skeptical. Center for Digital Democracy Executive Director Jeffrey Chester told CBS News the governor is “off to the wrong start” with this proposal, which Chester thinks could potentially degrade consumer privacy.
“They shouldn’t be tricked into giving away their privacy for a small discount,” Chester told the news outlet. “Selling it for a few bucks isn’t the answer and will make the problem worse.”