Should Consumers Be Able to Sell Their Own Personal Data?

The Wall Street Journal: “People around the world are confused and concerned about what companies do with the data they collect from their interactions with consumers.

A global survey conducted last fall by the research firm Ipsos gives a sense of the scale of people’s worries and uncertainty. Roughly two-thirds of those surveyed said they knew little or nothing about how much data companies held about them or what companies did with that data. And only about a third of respondents on average said they had at least a fair amount of trust that a variety of corporate and government organizations would use the information they had about them in the right way….

Christopher Tonetti, an associate professor of economics at Stanford Graduate School of Business, says consumers should own and be able to sell their personal data. Cameron F. Kerry, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution and former general counsel and acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce, opposes the idea….

YES: It Would Encourage Sharing of Data—a Plus for Consumers and Society…Data isn’t like other commodities in one fundamental way—it doesn’t diminish with use. And that difference is the key to why consumers should own the data that’s created when they interact with companies, and have the right to sell it.YES: It Would Encourage Sharing of Data—a Plus for Consumers and Society…

NO: It Would Do Little to Help Consumers, and Could Leave Them Worse Off Than Now…

But owning data will do little to help consumers’ privacy—and may well leave them worse off. Meanwhile, consumer property rights would create enormous friction for valid business uses of personal information and for the free flow of information we value as a society.

In our current system, consumers reflexively click away rights to data in exchange for convenience, free services, connection, endorphins or other motivations. In a market where consumers could sell or license personal information they generate from web browsing, ride-sharing apps and other digital activities, is there any reason to expect that they would be less motivated to share their information? …(More)”.