Andrew Yang: Our data should be a property right, new proposal says

"At this point our data is more valuable than oil," Yang said. "If anyone benefits from our data it should be us."

Tom Williams / Contributor
  • 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang published a policy proposal this week calling for personal data to be treated as a property right.
  • Currently, tech companies are able to collect, repackage and sell individuals' data with little oversight.
  • Yang wants individuals to have the option to sell their personal data, or opt out of the process.


Who owns your online data? The answer might be your internet browser, a social media platform or some other sort of tech company. But, in practice, the answer is definitely not you.

Andrew Yang, the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, wants to change that. On Tuesday, Yang published a policy proposal calling for personal data to be treated as a property right.

"Our data is ours — or it should be," Yang wrote on Twitter. "At this point our data is more valuable than oil. If anyone benefits from our data it should be us. I would make data a property right that each of us shares."

The current approach to personal data in the U.S., Yang said at the Monetery Tech Summit in May, is essentially a free for all: Companies get our data, sell it, package it, repackage it and resell it.

"We are sort of on the outside looking in," he said.

Most of our data that's being sold is anonymous, but Yang argued that it would be more valuable if it were individualized. Of course, the only way people would agree to sell personal data is if they were compensated.

"To speak for myself, you can have my data if you make my life easier," Yang said. "We all have different data preferences. What we need to do is have the data be ours and then be able to express that preference, and hope that if you were even willing to individualize and personalize it, the value of that data actually shoots up, and you can get a little bit in return."

Yang's proposal calls for:

  • The right to be informed as to what data will be collected, and how it will be used
  • The right to opt out of data collection or sharing
  • The right to be told if a website has data on you, and what that data is
  • The right to be forgotten; to have all data related to you deleted upon request
  • The right to be informed if ownership of your data changes hands
  • The right to be informed of any data breaches including your information in a timely manner
  • The right to download all data in a standardized format to port to another platform

The presidential candidate, who as of early October averaged about 3 percent support in national polls, said the future of data privacy is one of the most questions subjects of our time.

"It starts with acknowledging that the data is ours," Yang said at the Monterey summit. "Right now, that's not even clear…As a country, we have to start saying, first, who owns it? I would argue that we own it."

Decrypt, a cryptocurrency-focused publication, noted that Yang's proposal is similar to the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation, which aims to give individuals more control and transparency over how their data is collected. Decrypt also spoke to Phil Windley, chair of the Sovrin Foundation, a nonprofit that seeks to enable self-sovereign identity on the internet, about how data production and collection is a two-way street, a fact which highlights the complexities of the conversation Yang seeks to start.

"Almost no data is generated just by an individual," Windley said. "Rather, data is usually generated by multiple parties as part of a process."

Yang isn't the only candidate pushing for legislation on data privacy.

In June, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, introduced the Social Media Privacy and Consumer Rights Act, a bipartisan piece of legislation calling for increased transparency and controls over how person data is collected and used by companies. Also, in April, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, introduced a plan that would make it easier to hold companies criminally liable when they breach individuals' personal data.

Higher ed isn’t immune to COVID-19, but the crisis will make it stronger

The pandemic reminds us that our higher education system, with all its flaws, remains a key part of our strategic reserve.

Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • America's higher education system is under great scrutiny as it adapts to a remote-learning world. These criticisms will only make higher ed more innovative.
  • While there are flaws in the system and great challenges ahead, higher education has adapted quickly to allow students to continue learning. John Katzman, CEO of online learning organization Noodle Partners, believes this is cause for optimism not negativity.
  • Universities are pillars of scientific research on the COVID-19 frontlines, they bring facts in times of uncertainty and fake news, and, in a bad economy, education is a personal floatation device.
Keep reading Show less

The mystery of the Bermuda Triangle may finally be solved

Meteorologists propose a stunning new explanation for the mysterious events in the Bermuda Triangle.

Surprising Science

One of life's great mysteries, the Bermuda Triangle might have finally found an explanation. This strange region, that lies in the North Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda, Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico, has been the presumed cause of dozens and dozens of mind-boggling disappearances of ships and planes.

Keep reading Show less

Should churches be considered essential businesses?

A debate is raging inside and outside of churches.

Demonstrators holding signs demanding their church to reopen, protest during a rally to re-open California and against Stay-At-Home directives on May 1, 2020 in San Diego, California.

Photo by Sandy Huffaker / AFP via Getty Images
Culture & Religion
  • Over 1,200 pastors in California claim they're opening their churches this week against state orders.
  • While church leaders demand independence from governmental oversight, 9,000 Catholic churches have received small business loans.
  • A number of re-opened churches shut back down after members and clergy became infected with the novel coronavirus.
Keep reading Show less

What can your microwave tell you about your health?

An MIT system uses wireless signals to measure in-home appliance usage to better understand health tendencies.

John Moore/Getty Images
Technology & Innovation

For many of us, our microwaves and dishwashers aren't the first thing that come to mind when trying to glean health information, beyond that we should (maybe) lay off the Hot Pockets and empty the dishes in a timely way.

Keep reading Show less
Scroll down to load more…