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Senators want tech companies to put a price on your personal data

A new bipartisan bill would compel companies to disclose how much money they make off their users.

Sen. Mark Warner

Senators Mark Warner and Josh Hawley are introducing a bipartisan bill to make tech companies let users know how much their data is worth.

Pete Marovich / Getty Images

User data is big business for social media and other tech companies, but most people outside of those businesses don't know how much that data is worth. New legislation aims to make tech companies disclose the dollar value of your personal information.

Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia, and Sen. Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, will introduce the Designing Accounting Safeguards to Help Broaden Oversight And Regulations on Data (Dashboard) Act on Monday. The bipartisan legislation will require companies that gather user data to disclose what data they're collecting and assess its value.

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"For years, social media companies have told consumers that their products are free to the user.  But that's not true – you are paying with your data instead of your wallet," Warner said in a press release Monday. "But the overall lack of transparency and disclosure in this market have made it impossible for users to know what they're giving up, who else their data is being shared with, or what it's worth to the platform."

Companies with more than 100 million monthly active users would have to file an annual report on the value of the user data they collected and any deals they have with third parties for that info, according to the Dashboard Act. They would also have to disclose the types of data gathered, how much it's worth, and allow users to delete all or parts of their data. The Securities and Exchange Commission would be in charge of developing the methodologies that will calculate the data's value.

In an interview with Axios on Sunday about the upcoming bill, Warner singled out Facebook, saying the social media platform knows more about its users than the government does. Facebook has been at the center of the controversy over users' privacy since last year's Cambridge Analytica scandal.

"We look forward to continuing our ongoing conversations with the bill's sponsors," a Facebook spokesperson said in an email Monday.

Facebook does provide the average revenue per user in its quarterly earnings report. In April, the revenue for each user was $6.42.

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