If the proposals of a report commissioned by the French president make it onto the statute books, firms such as Facebook and Google may be made to pay a tax for data mining. France, which has long been skirmishing with the search engine giant--last year, Google threatened to exclude French websites from its search engine, after the country's culture minister proposed Google pay for content, just months after France's supreme court ordered Google to ban certain piracy-related words from its search terms--has been looking for ways in which to get large U.S. firms to render unto César the things which are César's, so to speak.
Google's annual revenue from France is estimated at somewhere between 1.5-2 billion euros. With public finances strained in Europe, politicians are looking for additional streams of revenue: Big Internet dollars are made on citizens' personal information, so why shouldn't that be seen as a taxable asset? There is a problem with this, however: levying a tax on an individual's data would mean these firms which allow free access of their services--Google, Facebook--may mean a cessation of the free model and an introduction of pay-per-Friend, or -search, and so on. One can only imagine how happy Internet users would be by being charged Facebook or Google fees.
There has been some controversy in recent months over what is seen as tax avoidance by many of the U.S.'s large firms. The British parliament pointed the finger at Google, Starbucks, Amazon, and Apple, recently, noting that some of these firms use Ireland, The Netherlands, and Luxembourg as their European bases in order to pay a minimum level of corporation tax.
[Image by Flickr user State Library of South Australia]