Federal Court rules that People have Personal Data Property Rights!

James Felton Keith
3 min readMar 24, 2021

Originally at Data Dividend Project

In November 2020, Andrew Yang and The Data Dividend Project submitted a brief to the California Federal Court arguing that California consumers do have a property interest in their own online data. You can download the brief itself here.

UPDATE on Feb. 18 Court Hearing:

The California Federal Court held a nearly 2 hour hearing on Thursday Feb. 18 in the Calhoun v. Google case. Judge Koh asked numerous questions to both sides. One of the questions that Judge Koh asked focused on the issue of whether a consumer’s online data could be considered personal property under California law.

On March 17, 2021, Judge Koh issued her 39 page decision. In it, she held that there is a “growing trend” around the country to recognize that personal information has property value, and that California courts specifically “have also acknowledged that users have a property interest in their personal information.” Judge Koh noted further “that plaintiffs who suffered a loss of their personal information suffered economic injury.”

This ruling, together with the other recent ruling against Google on tracking while users are in Incognito mode, is bringing Americans closer and closer to the day where they can collectively demand data dividends from Big Tech and Data Brokers for the use and abuse of Americans’ online data.

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The Underlying Lawsuit against Google

In July 2020, lawyers sued Google for extensive data privacy violations around Google’s Chrome browser, which is used by hundreds of millions of people daily. Specifically, the lawsuit alleged that Google has been breaking its “express and binding” promise to not collect Chrome users’ personal data unless they agreed to sync their browser to their Google account. In its Chrome privacy policy, Google pledged the following: “You don’t need to provide any personal information to use Chrome.”

However, that is simply not true according to the lawsuit; instead, “Google intentionally and unlawfully causes Chrome to record and send users’ personal information to Google regardless of

James Felton Keith

CEO, InclusionScore | Author, DISM for ISO-30415 | Professor, UGA Terry College of Business | 1st Black LGBT Person for US Congress