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Facebook owes you money

Under questioning by joint Senate committees on Tuesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg...

Posted: Apr 13, 2018 3:53 AM
Updated: Apr 13, 2018 3:53 AM

Under questioning by joint Senate committees on Tuesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said something that should make every internet user smile:

"Every piece of content that you share on Facebook, you own."

Zuckerberg only meant that users should control who sees their posts. But perhaps we should take him literally. What if personal data had a value like any other property? Shouldn't owners of the data be compensated for its use?

Data is immensely valuable to internet companies, especially those that offer free services to users and make money through targeted advertising, such as Facebook and Google. But data is highly prized by other companies, too. Amazon parses search queries to figure out what products to show similar shoppers. It trains Alexa to become a better speaker and listener with users' spoken instructions to their Amazon Echo home assistants.

Uber uses usage histories to improve its ride-matching service. Tesla collects images from cars using its "autopilot" feature to improve its vehicles' autonomous capabilities.

Other internet companies log and analyze user data to improve product design, customer retention, and initiatives that help them earn revenue. In spite of this, data is not transparently accounted for on balance sheets.

Of course, your harvested data gives you the benefit of a tailored, customized online experience with ads targeted to your preferences. Facebook would argue that a free, personalized user experience is the value you get in exchange for them taking your data from you. But is that a fair exchange? Is the value you get equal to the benefit that Facebook gets?

Sheryl Sandberg this week even suggested - hypothetically, Facebook later said -- charging the customer if data is withheld: If you refuse to share your data, you would have to pay to use Facebook. In one informal online Twitter poll (984 respondents), 83% said they would not pay Facebook in exchange for opting out of ads.

If this is true, a person's data is worth more than the customized experience Facebook delivers.

The fact is, giving you something of value for your data is not new. When you go to Safeway or CVS, you may get a discount if you enter your phone number or swipe your store card upon checkout. But not at Facebook, or any other platform that uses your information to make a profit.

If, as Zuckerberg testified, your data is yours, perhaps we should recognize that people have a property interest in their own information. And if a corporation is using your personal information and data to make whopping profits, then perhaps that corporation should share the benefits with you: Call it revenue sharing for everyday people.

As artificial intelligence and connected devices seep into homes and workplaces, data collection in our lives is becoming ubiquitous. So it's worth asking: In an era in which wealth and income inequality are glaringly persistent, should some technology companies continue to reap overwhelming profits while individuals on whose data they rely receive no compensation? How can we measure data's worth?

These are questions worth asking.

At Tuesday's hearing, Sen. Jon Tester said to Zuckerberg, "You said multiple times during this hearing that I own the data. ... That sounds good, but in practice you're making $40 billion a year. I'm not making money on it. It feels like you own the data."

Maybe it's time to make it clearer who owns your data, and what that property interest is worth.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 263023

Reported Deaths: 5752
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17675191
Hinds16813331
Harrison14224204
Rankin11167219
Jackson10839190
Lee9050144
Madison8568168
Jones6668114
Forrest6177124
Lauderdale6097192
Lowndes5518120
Lafayette516298
Lamar503965
Washington4923125
Bolivar4104109
Oktibbeha405982
Panola384881
Pontotoc376258
Warren3674103
Monroe3671108
Union355663
Marshall355270
Neshoba3485154
Pearl River3468105
Leflore3111109
Lincoln305688
Hancock291862
Sunflower291475
Tate279662
Alcorn272354
Pike268981
Itawamba268063
Scott259648
Yazoo255256
Prentiss252553
Tippah249250
Copiah249049
Coahoma248054
Simpson242171
Leake237367
Grenada223272
Marion222073
Covington219973
Adams213671
Wayne212634
Winston207371
George204339
Newton199046
Attala196963
Tishomingo194161
Chickasaw189044
Jasper179538
Holmes171768
Clay165837
Tallahatchie156235
Stone151425
Clarke147262
Calhoun140822
Smith129226
Yalobusha122034
Walthall114337
Greene113529
Noxubee112926
Montgomery111636
Carroll106622
Lawrence106517
Perry104531
Amite101426
Webster96124
Tunica88821
Claiborne88325
Jefferson Davis88329
Benton85623
Humphreys84624
Kemper80520
Quitman7089
Franklin69917
Choctaw63213
Wilkinson59825
Jefferson56821
Sharkey45117
Issaquena1606
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 439442

Reported Deaths: 6657
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson644371007
Mobile31435569
Madison28158217
Tuscaloosa21492275
Montgomery19873332
Shelby19248132
Baldwin17128189
Lee13137107
Morgan12594142
Etowah12070181
Calhoun11496206
Marshall10420123
Houston8988164
Limestone832081
Cullman8257124
Elmore8183110
DeKalb7871107
Lauderdale7847107
St. Clair7808130
Talladega6445112
Walker6028183
Jackson599145
Colbert548694
Blount546286
Autauga535862
Coffee460764
Dale409685
Franklin374150
Russell354215
Chilton344373
Covington338580
Escambia334544
Tallapoosa3143109
Dallas312996
Chambers303470
Clarke298036
Pike262431
Lawrence253355
Marion253161
Winston233342
Bibb222348
Geneva210247
Marengo208231
Pickens199531
Hale184944
Barbour180538
Fayette177829
Butler173160
Cherokee165131
Henry159525
Monroe152021
Randolph145536
Washington141727
Clay129746
Crenshaw123745
Macon121937
Cleburne121525
Lamar119922
Lowndes114836
Wilcox107922
Bullock103328
Perry99918
Conecuh97822
Sumter90527
Greene77923
Coosa63418
Choctaw51924
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