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California wants Internet giants to pay Internet users for their data

Always against the tide, California, headquarters of most of the giants of the Net -Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, Oracle, IBM …- advance on the record of their taxation, which mobilizes states around the world , including France and Europe, as well as the OECD. Gavin Newsom, the new governor, announced Tuesday (February 12th) that the "Golden State" is working on the implementation of a tax on data.

The principle: technology groups, whose wealth depends for the most part on the exploitation of users' personal data, should pay them a "dividend". This is the famous concept of the ownership of personal data, an option discussed for several years and perceived by some, including the think tank Generation Libre in France, as a solution to overcome the low taxation of the kings of the Internet and redistribute the value created by these services.

Read also : To be the owner of his personal data, a dangerous illusion

The data, the gold of the 21st century captured by the Gafa

After voting, in 2018, a "local GDPR", California now wants to engage on the redistribution of wealth from the exploitation of personal data. This is because Internet giants, including Google and Facebook, global online advertising champions, are reaping billions of dollars from data collection, analysis and exploitation, which allows advertisers to target their ads very accurately.

This business model allows them to offer free services for users. A win-win approach for them, but a logic that turns the user into a product for their opponents, and to make money opaque, on their backs. The more these giants grow and expand into other industries, the more data they collect, and the more valuable these data are and allow them to feed their research and development to continue their expansion. Datasets held by Google, Facebook or Microsoft allow them to lead the race for innovation in artificial intelligence, giving them a competitive advantage.

Personal data is also a particularly sensitive subject since the Cambridge Analytica case last year brought to light the methods of management of personal data by Facebook, considered lax and opaque by many elected representatives, regulators, associations and consumers of by the world.

An imperfect solution to a real problem

The governor of California has not detailed how the state plans to calculate the value of the data conceded to each giant, and what the financial compensation for the citizens will be.

The think tank Génération Libre, in a report published early last year, had advanced a methodology based on the blockchain. Each user could consent in writing to sell his data. The financial transactions would then be carried out thanks to the blockchain, technical certification of transactions. Internet users could recover up to " several hundred euros a month According to their online activity, according to the circle of reflection.

While technical feasibility still raises questions, other players believe that paying users is not a good solution. Thus, the National Commission of computing and freedoms (Cnil) believes that citizens would find themselves in a position of weakness against the giants of the Net.

" The property of data is an illusion, estimated last year Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, president of the French regulatory authority. Such a market would be unbalanced. There would be a limited number of applicants facing a multitude of data providers. It would be a big sell-off of the data for the benefit of the giants of the Web. Once they have full ownership of the data, they can really do what they want. "

Read also: Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin (CNIL): "The RGPD gives European and international actors equal competition"


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