By Marco della Cava | USA TODAY
During his State of the State address last month, California Gov. Gavin Newsom made a brief, if bold, promise.
“California’s consumers should be able to share in the wealth that is created from their data,” said Newsom, who went on to add that his team was working up a proposal for what he called a “data dividend.”
The term was simple, self-explanatory and puzzling.
A law that would compensate consumers for the use of their data by tech monoliths such as Google and Facebook, who make billions off this information, is so novel it would be a national and indeed global first.
But as appealing as a data dividend might sound, data privacy experts say it is far more easily announced than implemented.
Supporters of a data dividend say it is a natural extension of California’s precedent-setting consumer Consumer Privacy Act of 2018, which goes into effect in 2020 and grants residents the right to know what kind of data is being collected, what it’s being used for and whether it should be deleted.
But unlike the Alaska Permanent Fund, which in the ’80s started doling out $1,000-and-up checks to state residents who were sharing in the state’s easily tallied oil wealth, a California data dividend would have to apply a concrete value to largely intangible and often anonymized digital information.
There’s also concern that such a dividend would establish a pay-for-privacy construct that would be biased against the poor, or spawn a tech-tax to cover the dividend that might push some tech companies out of the state.