Enacting a Tax on Companies Using Valuable Personal Information

Societies should first tax what they dislike most, and the exploitation of personal user information by corporations is definitely an aspect of society to be disliked.

Our data is valuable. Each year, it generates hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of economic activity, mostly between and within corporations — all on the back of information about each of us.

It’s this transaction — between you, the user, giving up details of yourself to a company in exchange for a product like a photo app or email, or a whole ecosystem like Facebook — that’s worth by some estimates $1,000 per person per year, a number that is quickly rising.

The value of our personal data is primarily locked up in the revenues of large corporations. Some, like data brokerages, exist solely to buy and sell sets of that data.

Why should companies be the major, and often the only, beneficiaries of this largess? They shouldn’t. Those financial benefits need to be shared, and the best way to do it is to impose a small tax on this revenue and use the proceeds to build a better, more equitable internet and society that benefit us all.

The data tax could be a minor cost, less than 1 percent of the revenue companies earn from selling our personal data, spread out over an entire industry. Individually, no company’s bottom line would substantially suffer; collectively, the tax would pull money back to the public, from an industry profiting from material and labor that is, at its very core, our own.

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Our data is ours, but it also is not ours. We trade it away for so much of our experience on the internet. Money from a data tax could begin to counter this trade imbalance.

The money should go toward improving privacy of our information on the internet, countering identity theft, improving connectivity and internet literacy, all causes that would help create a more equitable internet for all.

Sick Drug Corporation Hiding Behind a Native American Tribe to Protect Its Drug Patent

The failures of the monetary profit motive and the failures of drug patent monopolies merge to form a new absurdity from a pharmaceutical corporation: Exploiting the sovereignty of a Native American tribe. It’s for money, of course. Money, money, money, money, and money. Money for primarily a small number of rich shareholders, who will probably use the corporate profits at public expenses to buy another yacht, or some other materialistic excess. Meanwhile, the weight of suffering continues build, worsened by the wrongful capture of labor value from so many.

And why the hell is a corporation trying to invoke the Fifth Amendment right against double jeopardy? Do large corporations effectively have more legal priveleges than most people do now?

If you thought the pharmaceutical industry couldn’t possibly sink any lower in its pursuit of profits Allergan just proved you wrong. The geniuses at Allergan came up with the brilliant idea of turning over one of its patents on the dry-eye drug Restasis to the Mohawk tribe. The tribe will then lease the patent back to the Allergan.

The reason for this silly trick is that the Mohawk tribe, based on its sovereign status, is disputing the right of generic competitors to pursue a case before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. This board is supposed to determine whether a patent was appropriately granted in the first place.

The article may have left readers confused about the issues involved when it reported without comment a statement by Allergan’s lawyer, which claimed that they were trying to avoid double jeopardy, since the company also faces a case in federal court. The additional background here is that there is an enormous asymmetry in legal cases involving patents. The patent holder is fighting for the right to sell a drug in a monopoly market, which means monopoly profits. The challenger(s) is fighting for the right to be able to sell the drug in a competitive market, which means normal profits.

In this context, the patent holder has an enormous incentive to delay and run up the cost of litigation, which may quickly prove unprofitable to the generic competitor. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board was created to allow a quicker lower cost process to challenge invalid patents. It is also worth noting that Allergan’s revenue on this drug (more than $1.3 billion annually, according to the article) can be thought of as a tax on the American public. Without this patent, the drug would likely sell for 20 percent or less of its patent protected price.