In California Governor Gavin Newsom’s “State of the State” speech on Tuesday, he put forth an idea that will sound familiar to those following emerging blockchain companies. He proposed “digital dividends” for California residents, wherein consumers can share in the spoils their data brings Big Tech.
Newsom didn’t get specific about his proposal, which he’s asked his team to “develop.” He just criticized companies like Facebook and Google (which he’s proud to have in his state, don’t get him wrong) for opaquely profiting off of their users’ personal information, information that consumers technically own, and which they’re currently sharing for free. In Newsom’s words, “We recognize that your data has value and it belongs to you.” According to Axios, Facebook currently makes about $7.37 per active monthly user.
California’s taken a relatively strong stance on consumer privacy. Last summer, under Governor Jerry Brown, the state approved a privacy bill that gives Californians legal recourse if companies abuse their data. Assembly Bill 375 requires businesses to tell consumers what kinds of personal information they’re collecting (if consumers ask) and allows consumers to request that a company delete all of the personal information it has on them. Further, those under-16 have to consent to having their data sold.
Teenagers consenting to have their data sold may ring a bell. As TechCrunch revealed last month, Facebook secretly carried out a program in which it paid teens and young adults $20 a month to access data on their smartphones. Facebook targeted them through young people apps like Snapchat and Instagram. And yes, teens were supposed to digitally submit “parental permission,” but who’s to say that Facebook was stringently following up on the veracity of supposed parental claims?
To circumvent this Facebook-style shadiness, blockchain companies offering payments in exchange for data tout an essential aspect of their technology, transparency, as a way for users to responsibly manage and profit from their personal information. Back in October, BREAKERMAG writer Greg Milner tested out a few of these, including the Language Network, exchanging the sound of his voice for some LANG tokens. The point was less about the money he made (essentially none—LANG tokens aren’t even listed on Coinmarketcap), but rather about knowledge and a sense of control over the literal pieces of yourself you’re constantly donating to corporations. Blockchain technology can let you track the information you’re handing out for pay. Google very likely won’t.
If California residents start getting paid by Google for sharing their data, it won’t mean Google is collecting any less of it. It will just make users feel like they’re a part of the process, that they’re getting their due for participating in the grand, online ecosystem that is Google. And that, in theory, might make people more willing to share personal information with tech companies than before.
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