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Andrew Yang proposes that your digital data be considered personal property

Andrew Yang proposes that your digital data be considered personal property
[Photo: Flickr user Phil Roeder]

2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang may not be at the top of the race when it comes to polling (Politico currently has him ranked as the 7th most-popular Democratic contender), but his policies, including support for universal basic income, have made him popular among a subset of young, liberal-leaning, tech-savvy voters. Yang’s latest proposal, too, is sure to strike a chord with them.

The presidential candidate published his latest policy proposal today: to treat data as a property right. Announcing the proposal on his website, Yang lamented how our data is collected, used, and abused by companies, often with little awareness or consent from us. “This needs to stop,” Yang says. “Data generated by each individual needs to be owned by them, with certain rights conveyed that will allow them to know how it’s used and protect it.”

The rights Yang is proposing:

  • 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 fourth point is notable because it seems to suggest Yang wants the same “right to be forgotten” laws that Europe currently offers. That’s something tech giants like Google have litigated vigorously. And you can be sure that many tech giants would lobby just as vigorously against some of his other “data as property” proposals.

Still, it’s refreshing to see a candidate so clearly outline his digital data policies. Whether that will help push him higher in the polls remains to be seen.

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