Should internet firms pay for the data users currently give away?

“Still, the paper contains essential insights which should frame discussion of data’s role in the economy. One concerns the imbalance of power in the market for data. That stems partly from concentration among big internet firms. But it is also because, though data may be extremely valuable in aggregate, an individual’s personal data typically are not. For one Facebook user to threaten to deprive Facebook of his data is no threat at all. So effective negotiation with internet firms might require collective action: and the formation, perhaps, of a “data-labour union”.

This might have drawbacks. A union might demand too much in
compensation for data, for example, impairing the development of useful AIs. It might make all user data freely available and extract compensation by demanding a share of firms’ profits; that would rule out the pay-for-data labour model the authors see as vital to improving data quality. Still, a data union holds potential as a way of solidifying worker power at a time when conventional unions struggle to remain relevant.”


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