Successful businesses boost the economy of the state. But should they be forced to share their profits with the state?
California Governor Gavin Newsom seems to think so. In his “State of the State” speech, given February 13, Newsom noted that California tech companies make billions in profits every year. He then said that he wanted to create a “data dividend” to tax these companies. “California’s consumers should also be able to share in the wealth that is created from their data,” said Newsom.
Newsom, who was elected four weeks ago, argued that tech companies make an enormous profit from “collecting, curating and monetizing our personal data.”
Ironically, California also passed a law regulating data-privacy in the state. Do politicians either want cash for their data, or do they want data privacy? The answer here isn’t clear. While Newsom said in his speech, “Consumers have a right to know and control how their data is being used,” treating data as something that can be sold sends out a different message.
Newsom’s plan conflicts with some Democrat colleagues. , California Senator Kamala Harris (who worked with Newsom as San Francisco attorney general while he was mayor) tweeted that “The American people have an absolute right to the privacy of their data. The FCC needs to immediately investigate reports of this system of repackaging and reselling location data to unregulated third party services and take the necessary steps to protect Americans’ privacy.”
The proposed tax against the wealthy tech companies is heavily supported by an advocacy group in California called Common Sense Media. Run by Jim Steyer, brother to liberal billionaire Tom Steyer, the organization boasts that it wrote the privacy law that passed in California in 2018. As for the “digital dividend,” Steyer told TechCrunch on February 12 that “we’re about to introduce legislation on this.”