News & Opinion | June 26, 2019 10:44 am

Should Facebook Be Paying You for Your Personal Data?

Companies make billons from your personal information. Shouldn't you get a cut?

Maybe it's time Facebook started paying you for your data
Maybe it's time Facebook started paying you for your data
Photo by Chesnot/Getty

As internet users, we’ve all more or less agreed to let companies like Facebook and Google analyze and sell our personal information in exchange for access to their services. But not everyone thinks it should work that way.

Your data is worth a real dollar amount to these companies, and, according to Robert J. Shapiro, chairman of Sonecon and a Senior Fellow at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, you should be getting a cut of it.

In a recent article for Washington Monthly, Shapiro argued that internet users have a property interest in their personal information, and should be compensated accordingly. After conducting a study into the real value of personal data, Shapiro calculated that internet companies earned an average of $202 per American internet user in 2018 from their personal information, which he claimed was a modest estimate.

In total, Shapiro estimated that American internet users’ personal data totaled $56.5 billion, and that number is only expected to grow. According to Shapiro’s estimate, personal data will reach a value of $127.9 billion in four years, meaning people’s information will be worth an average of $434 per American internet user in 2022.

“Internet companies and their users both contribute to the commercial value of the personal profiles that drive digital advertising,” said Shapiro. “A straightforward solution is thus to require the companies to share the profits from those operations with users on a fifty-fifty basis.”

Shapiro proposes that each company write a check to the government, which would then be distributed to every household based on the number of its internet users. If his estimates hold up, that would mean a family of four internet users would receive a check for $868 in 2022. Not a bad deal.

“Corporations have gotten rich by exploiting our data,” said Shapiro. “It’s time for them to share the wealth.”

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