We Already Know What Our Data Is Worth

New legislation would require tech companies like Facebook and Google to disclose the value of users’ data, but we don’t need laws to put a price on our autonomy

Colin Horgan


Photo by Will Francis on Unsplash

OnOn Monday, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Josh Hawley introduced what they’re calling the Designing Accounting Safeguards to Help Broader Oversight and Regulations on Data (or DASHBOARD) Act. The bill aims to do three main things: require tech companies to regularly disclose to users how their personal data are being used, which third parties that data is being shared with, and the value of the data people provide to platforms.

The final aspect of the bill is the one that’s generating headlines. That’s intentional — it’s even highlighted in bold in the bill’s one-page summary. But what would happen if we put a price on data?

To be clear, for Warner and Hawley, clarifying this monetary value isn’t about people getting paid for their data. As they outline, the purpose of disclosing the “true value” of data would be to provide transparency for users and increase competition in the sector. Most importantly, it would “assist antitrust enforcers in identifying unfair transactions and anticompetitive transactions and practices.” That monetary value might also mean that…