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Could you get a digital dividend? Gavin Newsom wants Californians to profit from tech data

Full replay: Here’s Gov. Gavin Newsom and the State of the State address

Governor Gavin Newsom delivers his first State of the State address before a joint session of the California Legislature on Tuesday, February 12, 2019.
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Governor Gavin Newsom delivers his first State of the State address before a joint session of the California Legislature on Tuesday, February 12, 2019.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed a “data dividend” in his first State of the State Address on Tuesday, calling on tech companies like Google and Facebook to let consumers profit from the details they share online.

“California’s consumers should also be able to share in the wealth that is created from their data,” Newsom said. “I’ve asked my team to develop a proposal for a new Data Dividend for Californians, because we recognize that your data has value and it belongs to you.”

It’s unclear how customers would get any money and how long it might take Newsom’s administration to draft a specific plan.

During his speech, Newsom praised state lawmakers for passing a bill last year that aims to improve privacy protections for consumers.

The California Consumer Privacy Act, which will go into effect at the start of 2020, allows California residents to hold companies accountable if their data is abused. It will allow Californians to ask businesses to delete their information. People will also be able to request that companies disclose the categories of information they collect.

Alastair MacTaggart worked with lawmakers and sparred with tech industry in his efforts to get the bill approved. Gov. Jerry Brown signed it hours before the secretary of state’s initiative deadline. He said Tuesday in a statement that he is glad to see Newsom press forward on the issue.

“We are so pleased that Governor Newsom is at the forefront of leaders recognizing that California consumers are fed up with being presented with no choice about what happens to their data, and forced to stand by and watch it sold to hundreds of companies they’ve never heard of, for uses they’d never approve,” MacTaggart said.

For the time being, advocacy groups and tech companies are eagerly waiting for more details on Newsom’s proposal.

Brian Ferguson, a spokesman for Newsom, said in a statement that the governor is “open to constructive input on this issue and has directed his team to work with the experts in this area nationally and legislators to recommend a proposal.”

According to Axios, the average revenue per monthly active Facebook user is $7.37. On Twitter and Reddit, it’s $2.83 and 30 cents, respectively. It remains to be seen what share of those proceeds, if any, Newsom wants to pass along to consumers.

The Internet Association, which worked to water down the language of the consumer privacy law, said it looks forward to reviewing Newsom’s plan.

Common Sense, a consumer rights group, said in a statement it supports the policy.

“While platforms are fast and loose with consumer data, they are not so willing to share what they are doing with the data or how much they are profiting,” the company said in a statement. “We fully support the Governor’s data dividend proposal and expect to introduce legislation that reflects that in the coming weeks.”

The group has talked to potential authors but declined to identify them by name or elaborate on possible legislation. Lawmakers have until Feb. 22 to introduce new bills.

State Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Los Angeles, was a primary sponsor of last year’s consumer privacy law and called Newsom’s digital dividend “the most intriguing” part of his speech.

“This is the next frontier of the online data and privacy conversation, and I’m looking forward to hearing what a plan could entail,” Hertzberg said.

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Bryan Anderson is a political reporter for The Bee. He covers the California Legislature and reports on wildfires and transportation. He also hosts The Bee’s “California Nation” podcast.
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