New US law forces Facebook, Google to disclose value of users’ data

If adopted, it would help users far make more informed choices about signing up for internet services

US Senator Mark Warner

A new bill, that would force tech giants like Google, Amazon, and Facebook to tell users how much their data is worth was introduced by American lawmakers on Monday. In an age where data is exploited as one of the world’s most valuable resources, the law would put a spotlight on what’s otherwise been a hidden side to the tech economy.

The Designing Accounting Safeguards to Help Broaden Oversight And Regulations on Data (DASHBOARD)’s argument is simple: When consumers decided decades ago to use “free” websites - a choice that made the Facebooks and Googles of the world into giants - there was virtually no understanding of the underlying bargain in which data would be given away. Even now, there is still little transparency around the data economy, a gap the bill wants to fix.

It would do that by requiring companies with 100 million or more monthly users to not only disclose the type of data they collect, but to put a monetary value on that data every 90 days. For this to be achieved, The Securities and Exchange Commission would have to develop methods for calculating that value. The measure would also ask companies to disclose the aggregate value of their users' data once per year. They'd also have to give customers the option to delete all or some of their data.

Senators Mark Warner and Josh Hawley hope the Dasboard Act would help customers make more informed choices about signing up for internet services, both in terms of what they're sharing and how the companies profit from that data. In addition, this could theoretically help with lawsuits by assigning a tangible value to the damage done to customers.

“For years, social media companies have told consumers that their products are free to the user,” Warner told Axios. “But that’s not true - you are paying with your data instead of your wallet.”

"These companies take enormous, enormous amounts of data about us," he continued. "If you're an avid Facebook user, chances are Facebook knows more about you than the US government knows about you. People don't realise one, how much data is being collected; and two, they don't realise how much that data is worth."

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