Sending Office: Honorable Bill Foster
User data is quickly becoming the most valuable asset in our increasingly digital economy. This is particularly the case with social media platforms, where user data allows for targeted ads and customized services. Unfortunately, there is currently little
transparency into the data collected by platforms – what, exactly, a provider has collected; how it was collected; and what the commercial value is. This serves as a major obstacle for agencies like the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) seeking to address competitive
and consumer harms. Customers have consistently been told that these services are ‘free’, when nothing could be further from the truth.
Without transparency, consumers can’t understand the true cost of the service that they have signed up for, and don’t have the information they need to decide for themselves whether they are getting a fair deal from the platform companies that monetize their
data. And as dominant social media platforms continue to tilt the playing field in their favor and collect ever more types of data, this problem is only getting worse.
The Designing Accounting Safeguards to Help Broaden Oversight and Regulations on Data (DASHBOARD) Act, a companion bill to S. 1951 introduced by Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Josh Hawley (R-MO), would begin to level the playing field—requiring large
companies (those that have more than 100 million monthly users) to regularly disclose to consumers the ways in which their data are being used, the third parties it is being shared with, and most importantly, what their data is worth to the platform. The bill
also provides long overdue transparency for shareholders — shining a light on how these large companies collect, retain, monetize and protect some of their most valuable, if intangible, assets. In particular, the bill would:
· Require commercial data operators (defined as services with over 100 million monthly users) to disclose types of data collected as well as regularly provide their users with an assessment of the value of that data.
Require commercial data operators to file an annual report on the aggregate value of user data they’ve collected, as well as contracts with third parties involving data collection.
· Require commercial data operators to allow users to delete all, or individual fields, of data collected – and disclose to users the ways in which their data is being used.
· Empower the SEC to develop methodologies for calculating data value, while encouraging the agency to facilitate flexibility to enable businesses to adopt methodologies that reflect the different uses, sectors, and business models.
This will serve three important goals. First, consumers will be able to determine the true value of the data they are providing to platforms. Second, making the value more transparent could increase competition by attracting competitors to the market. Finally,
disclosing the economic value of consumer data will also assist antitrust enforcers in identifying unfair transactions and anticompetitive transactions and practices.
Consumers deserve transparency when it comes to how companies are using and monetizing the treasure troves of data that they are collecting. My bill is a common sense step to shining a light on these important practices. For more information or to cosponsor,
please contact Diem-Mi Lu (firstname.lastname@example.org) in my office. Bill text is available
Member of Congress
e-Dear Colleague version 2.0