The Identity Trade Tax

When you visit a website and see an ad, this ad is sometimes delivered to you based on your past behavior. This is actually a form of prediction, and can be done in a complicated manner with machine learning et al., but can also be accomplished with simple algorithms that have been refined over the last 40 years.

This was always the goal of advertising, as an industry. Maximum impact for lowest spending. Show ads only those who might be influenced by them. Ads are expensive, even if they don’t contain Danny Devito.

So something funny-peculiar happened in the last few years. You hear concerned individuals talking about how this kind of tracking and ad serving is stealing your data.

I understand the concern. I have even felt it. But now I’m ready for a different tack.

It’s not your data.

It was data left as a trail in the public commons you moved through.

See, the data inside you is your data. Your thoughts and memories and hopes and dreams. When you write or create something the copyright is automatic, but should still be defended. But that is also your data.

The web site you visited? And got free entertainment on? Oh yeah, they saw you come in the door and click around. That info is theirs, and whether you want them to or not, they are going to make money with it. And leave it exposed on S3.

And now we get to another question. If the analogy above holds on any level, the real question is not “should websites be able to sell your metadata”? That horse has left the barn. What do you think Equifax is? There are massive industries that exist to trade info about you, in particular and aggregate. Your identity has been a traded commodity for well over a hundred years.

The issues we face now are twofold:

1. How do we regulate this trade of our identity and metadata with internationally binding rules and laws?

2. How do we make money from this trade?

We deserve a cut.

I propose an Identity Trade Tax, levied on every trade of my identity through any two corporate entities, to be collected on my behalf by the State and split with me.

So if company A serves advertising to me, using data from company B, then I get a piece of that ad buy. A very small piece, but a piece nonetheless.

Or maybe I could set the rate that I charge, and companies can bid on it. So, if you are a more valued consumer, who buys a lot through trackable ads, then you could potentially make more money if data collection companies (ie. social media) indicate such.

Or I could choose to not be tracked at all.

Once we have an attention marketplace that is taxable for our benefit, then that choice is going to be enforceable by the Government. The folks with guns and flamethrowers.

This isn’t about data or identity, this is about grabbing part of a revenue stream that we are the crucial component of.

A monthly identity trade rebate check. This a form of an attention meter. It’s time to get paid for our attention, and to use machine learning systems to detect when we are not getting our cut. And hey, I imagine the government would take a cut also. They always do, but in this case, well earned.

And with taxes comes regulations, which are clearly needed. So you answer the regulatory question with the economic one. Tends to work.

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