Data Dividends and the Digital Economy

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The rise of the technology industry, driven in large part by personal data, is collectively worth trillions of dollars. And while some view this as good ol’ fashion capitalism, others have a growing concern that users are getting the “short end of the stick”. Over the past two decades online, we’ve experienced constant surveillance, targeting, and manipulation leading to a variety of societal issues. As a result, a movement comprised of scholars, professionals, and activists are exploring alternative ways to remedy the imbalance in power via a data dividend — a mechanism whereby companies share profits derived from the use of personal data directly with users. On paper, the data dividend looks like an opportune moment to restructure the digital economy on more equitable terms. However, in practice, it may prove to be insufficient and merely a redesign of the current data ecosystem.

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