It’s Time to Tax Companies for Using Our Personal Data


James Yang

Our data is valuable. Each year, it generates hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of economic activity, mostly between and within corporations — all on the back of information about each of us.

It’s this transaction — between you, the user, giving up details of yourself to a company in exchange for a product like a photo app or email, or a whole ecosystem like Facebook — that’s worth by some estimates $1,000 per person per year, a number that is quickly rising.

The value of our personal data is primarily locked up in the revenues of large corporations. Some, like data brokerages, exist solely to buy and sell sets of that data.

Why should companies be the major, and often the only, beneficiaries of this largess? They shouldn’t. Those financial benefits need to be shared, and the best way to do it is to impose a small tax on this revenue and use the proceeds to build a better, more equitable internet and society that benefit us all.

The data tax could be a minor cost, less than 1 percent of the revenue companies earn from selling our personal data, spread out over an entire industry. Individually, no company’s bottom line would substantially suffer; collectively, the tax would pull money back to the public, from an industry profiting from material and labor that is, at its very core, our own.

This idea is not new. It is, essentially, a sales tax, among the oldest taxes that exist, but it hasn’t been done because assigning a fixed monetary value to our data can be very difficult. For a lot of internet businesses, our personal data either primarily flows through the business or remains locked within.

The flow-through type of business is an internet provider, like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon; the latter is a platform provider, like Facebook or Twitter. Google mostly makes platforms, like its search function and Gmail, but it also lays fiber-optic cable, providing the internet to some municipalities. The company also is making self-driving cars.

It’s perhaps easiest to consider…

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Peter Bordes

Exec Chairman & Founder at oneQube
Exec Chairman & Founder of oneQube the leading audience development automation platfrom. Entrepreneur, top 100 most influential angel investors in social media who loves digital innovation, social media marketing. Adventure travel and fishing junkie.
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