In a recent interview, United States presidential candidate and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar put forward an interesting idea. She mentioned the possibility of taxing tech companies who use user information. Although not yet set in stone, and far from other more pressing platforms, the idea can mean big things to modern America and potentially the world.
It does not seem like much at first glance, but placing taxes on tech companies like Facebook and Google for user information can have a huge impact on everyone. In an interview on SXSW with Kara Swisher, Senator Klobuchar said that companies like Facebook use their users as a commodity and people are not getting anything out of it. Furthermore, she said:
“When they sell our data to someone else, well, maybe they’re going to have to tell us so we can put some kind of a tax on it.”
This may not be any sort of prescriptive policy right now. Still with how ubiquitous companies like Amazon and Facebook are, even an idea to place checks and balances on their practices is intriguing. These companies benefit greatly from the data their users freely give, and the status quo is as the senator said:
“We just thought ‘Oh, we can just put our stuff on there and it’s fine,’ and they’re making money off of us.
To elaborate on it, she likened the situation to their public transportation structure:
“If you go on a truck, if you send stuff on rail, you have to pay for the roads, and you have to pay for the rail. And maybe there’s some way we can do that with large sets of data, when [companies like Facebook] use it or when they sell it. Because otherwise, we’re just being used, right?”
It may seem promising, however, to implement a policy on companies that work the way Amazon and Facebook does will be very complicated. Even to come up with a definition of what is taxable user data is tricky.
Just last year Europe tried to tax companies that make money off advertising or the selling of user data. It did not properly push through and what they got was a limited proposal from France and Germany. As of this writing, Klobuchar is the first of the 2020 US Presidential candidates to propose such taxes on these big tech companies.