California’s Very Silly Idea Of A Facebook Data Tax And Dividend

That California is where the rest of the United States goes to turn mad is obvious enough but there are still those incidents that bring it into stark relief. Like this little idea that Facebook and the like should be taxed so as to produce a dividend for Californians. The twin problems being that it’s silly and that it’s very silly. The first is that the amount of money simply isn’t relevant to anything at all. The second that it’s justified by the manner in which Facebook, Google et al sell data – but they don’t sell data. So, you know, Jim Carrey in silly and sillier territory here.

But then that’s La La Land for you:

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has set off a flurry of speculation after he said the state’s consumers should get a piece of the billions of dollars that technology companies make by capitalizing on personal data they collect. The new governor has asked aides to develop a proposal for a “data dividend” for California residents but provided no hints about whether he might be suggesting a tax on tech companies, an individual refund to their customers or something else. “Companies that make billions of dollars collecting, curating and monetizing our personal data have a duty to protect it,” the Democrat said in his first State of the State speech Tuesday. “California’s consumers should also be able to share in the wealth that is created from their data.” Tech companies, for example, sell the data to outside businesses that target ads to users.

So, first point, it’s immaterial. It’s just not enough money to even think about trying to send out to individuals:

Axios calculated that the average Facebook user is worth $7.37 to the company, while a Twitter user is worth $2.83, and a Reddit user, about 30 cents.

What percentage of $7.37 a year gets you juiced up then? Quite, it’s silly.

But then there’s this idea that the companies are selling data. They don’t. They sell advertising.

The public cry is that “they’re selling our data” – even that data is the new oil and it should all be taxed most heavily. When that’s not really what is in fact happening at Facebook, Google and the like. What they are doing is much more akin to the standard media pack of the legacy media. If you decide that you might like to advertise in, say, the Telegraph, or Mirror, then you’ll ask to see the demographics of their audience. You can then decide whether you’d prefer to advertise to broadsheet readers or tabloid, those leaning right or left, the different age cohorts that read each and so on. You are given as much data as they have on who their audience is.

Facebook, Google and so on do much the same thing. Instead of saying here’s our audience though they ask, well, which portion of our audience would you like to advertise to? The data on offer is how would you like to slice and dice that audience we’ve got available? The sale is of the advertising, the sale is not of the data itself. The data is to inform the sale of the advertising in much the same manner as that standard media pack. It’s just a more fine grained set of distinctions. To our mind this makes the basic cry, that they’re selling our data, incorrect. Incorrect to such an extent that it’s deliberately misleading – you know, a propagandistic lie?

There not doing what the law assumes they are and the amount of money’s not worth having anyway.

So, we agree then, this is silly and then it’s very silly. But then who ever thought different about California and politics?

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Jonathan HarstonQ46 Recent comment authors
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Q46

Simple solution. Stop ‘selling’ data – or whatever – start charging users.

This will particularly hit politicians, political organisations and Governments.

Then let the whining begin.

Jonathan Harston
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Jonathan Harston

They could have Facebook Classic which is funded by adverts and New Facebook which is funded by subscriptions. Then let the market decide.

As a firm member of the “I’ve already paid for my TV, and you and me to pay *AGAIN*???” club, I’m fairly certain of the outcome.