American political commentator and corporate lawyer Andrew Yang is launching the Data Dividend Project (DDP), a movement tasked with establishing and enforcing data property rights under laws such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

Yang has long been advocating for the data property rights of Americans, arguing that consumer data is the new oil and that consumers should have ownership over their personal data and even compensated for its use. As part of the DDP project, Yang says he wants people to get paid for the data they create on big tech companies such as Facebook and Google.

“Aren’t you sick of getting messages from companies you know you never signed up for? It’s because your data keeps getting sold and resold. It has to stop. We can enforce your data property rights – and give us all back our autonomy and data dignity,” Yang tweeted on June 22.

Every day, people are generating data in an ever-connected and digital world. Technology companies are tracking their every move online, extracting this data, and then buying and selling it for big money, without people’s consent or knowledge.

As of 2019, the United States had the third-highest number of internet users by country, with 293 million, according to Statista. The country was ranked number one in Harvard Business Review’s list of top data producers released early last year, and Canada took the seventh spot. A 2018 report from KPMG found that nearly two-thirds of Canadians don’t trust any organization to see or hold their personal data, citing Canadian customers among least trusting in the world with their personal data.

“Our data is our property, and if we allow companies to use it, we should get paid for it,” reads the project’s website. “By signing up with DDP, you give us the ability to collectively advocate for your data rights and your right to be compensated for the use of YOUR data, which is YOUR property. With a critical mass of Californians – and eventually, all Americans – demanding their fair share, technology companies will no longer be able to get away with hoarding the gains made off your data.”

Privacy expert and executive director of the Global Privacy & Security by Design Centre at Ryerson University, Ann Cavoukian, is adamant that the better approach to protecting people’s data is through privacy by design.

“I think Andrew Yang is very well-intentioned in this area,” she said. “But the essential feature of privacy by design is ‘privacy as the default setting’. It seeks to deliver the maximum degree of privacy by ensuring that personal data are automatically protected in any given IT system or business practice. If an individual does nothing, their privacy still remains intact.”

Privacy by design has been included in the new General Data Protection Regulation, which was introduced two years ago in the European Union. It has been translated into 40 languages and is followed all around the world.


From Big Blue to code red, Privacy by Design framework being widely adopted as industry standard


“This solution is better in a way that it takes a proactive approach to privacy which is always preferable to leaving it to chance and then the privacy laws are broken. And then you call the regulator to investigate and offer a remedy. Privacy laws are definitely valuable, but they pale in comparison to being proactive and embedding privacy by design into your operations because that’s a model of prevention. And that’s the way to do privacy,” said Cavoukian.

DDP aims to create the largest data-as-your-property movement in history with the support of Americans, and mobilize one million American consumers – Californians, in particular, due to the recent CCPA legislation – by the end of 2020.

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