Warner-Hawley Bill Gets “Paying” With Data Wrong, Says Leading Tech Policy Think Tank

June 24, 2019

WASHINGTON—In response to the introduction of the Designing Accounting Safeguards to Help Broaden Oversight and Regulations on Data (DASHBOARD) Act by Senators Mark Warner and Josh Hawley, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), the world’s leading think tank for science and technology policy, released the following statement from Vice President Daniel Castro:

The premise of the DASHBOARD Act is that consumers are getting a rotten deal. Senators Warner and Hawley are arguing that consumers are giving up too much data in exchange for free services—and if consumers only knew the value of their data, they would have sticker shock and stop sharing so much personal information.

But the premise is wrong. While data may have value, “paying” for a service with data is not the same as paying with money. Unlike money, consumers do not have less data after sharing personal information, and they can share that same data with other services as well. On the contrary, for most commercial services, consumers always come out ahead by sharing data in exchange for a free service.

This bill would require companies to go through an expensive process of trying to assign a value to each user, an activity which almost certainly would irritate consumers even if required by the government. In no other sector does the government require businesses to reveal which customers are most valuable to them. Further, if Congress wants to require this disclosure, it should extend it to businesses of all sizes, as well as political campaigns.

The bill does empower the Securities and Exchange Commission to develop a methodology for calculating data value, its sources for data collection, and how the company safeguards the data. These requirements are all reasonable and should be the basis for any bill that moves forward.