Josh Hawley, Mark Warner Want Big Tech to Disclose Value of Users’ Data

U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol April 2, 2019 in Washington, DC. Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) held a news conference to discuss "his efforts to make healthcare more affordable and accessible for families." (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Mark Warner (D-VA) will introduce legislation Monday to require Facebook, Google, and Amazon to disclose the value of users’ data.

The two senators will introduce the Designing Accounting Safeguards to Help Broaden Oversight and Regulations on Data Act, or DASHBOARD Act. Hawley and Warner’s legislation would require companies that generate material revenue from data collection, and have more than 100 million users, to reveal to users the type of data they collect, how they use their data, and to provide an assessment of the value of the data once every 90 days.

The senators’ legislation arises as Sen. Hawley introduced legislation last week that would amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which would “stop big tech’s assault on free speech.”

Sen. Hawley said in a statement Monday:

When a big tech company says its product is free, consumers are the ones being sold. These ‘free’ products track everything we do so tech companies can sell our information to the highest bidder and use it to target us with creepy ads. Even worse, tech companies do their best to hide how much consumer data is worth and to whom it is sold. This bipartisan legislation gives consumers control of their data and will show them how much these ‘free’ services actually cost.

The DASHBOARD Act would also stipulate that big tech companies disclose every year to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) the aggregate value of their users’ data. The bill requires that the SEC develop a method to calculate the value of users’ data. The DASHBOARD bill mandates that large tech companies must also provide a setting for users to delete all or part of their data.

Sen. Warner said on Sunday:

These companies take enormous, enormous amounts of data about us… If you’re an avid Facebook user, chances are Facebook knows more about you than the U.S. government knows about you. People don’t realize one, how much data is being collected; and two, they don’t realize how much that data is worth.

America’s largest technology companies have resisted calls to disclose the value of their users’ data, as well as how they collect and sell their users’ data. Some experts have said that it remains impossible to derive the value of a users’ data.

Sen. Warner contests that notion. Axios reports:

“Boloney,” Warner said of that defense. “I mean if these companies — go back to Facebook — can do all these acquisitions and many of these acquisitions were made on what appeared to be outrageous prices — they had a pretty darn good notion of how they could use that data and how much that was worth from one platform to another.”

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) has long questioned whether technology companies or Americans own their data. Blackburn said in 2018, “Who owns the digital you? Is it you or the search engine or the edge provider that is providing the service?”

Apple CEO Tim Cook has also endorsed a proposal to create a data broker clearinghouse, which would give Americans more control over their data and Internet privacy.

Sens. Warner and Hawley serve as part of a rising bipartisan group of lawmakers that have called for greater regulation of America’s largest tech companies. The Virginia Democrat said that he plans to introduce legislation that would require tech companies to make users’ data portable so consumers can move it from one platform to another.

Warner said that if tech companies cannot work with Congress on more “rational, focused reform, then I may very quickly join the crowd that simply says, ‘you know, let’s break them up.’ And I say that as somebody who was a technology entrepreneur longer than I’ve been a senator.”

“This senator’s patience is wearing very thin. It’s time for these companies to put their money where their mouth is,” Sen. Warner added.

Sean Moran is a congressional reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @SeanMoran3.

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