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At work. Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty

Big Tech is being challenged by a new strain of thought: that it should pay people for their data. The current arrangement — data for free search and friendship services — is insufficient, the new thinking goes.

Why it matters: If adopted, the argument — pressed by tech thinkers, economists and a new book — could erode billions of dollars of profit from companies like Google and Facebook, along with China's Alibaba and Tencent. Meanwhile, an undetermined amount of money, though probably just a few dollars to start, would go into the pockets of ordinary people around the world.

What they're saying: The argument is that data is actually labor — the result of stuff that everyone does in their daily lives. Therefore, if a company is using it for commercial purposes, it should pay the source of the data — you.

  • In the Weekend FT, tech thinker Jaron Lanier laments that “gargantuan, global data monopsonies” have taken over, retaining the entirety of the economic reward while creating much risk for everyone else.
  • In Radical Markets, a book published earlier this year, economist Glen Weyl and law professor Eric Posner predict the rise of data platforms representing ordinary people. They call them "data-labor unions."
  • The current Economist writes that a mechanism by which the wealth is shared might not actually turn out so bad for Big Tech. "Tech giants’ profit margins are likely to get squeezed, but their overall business may get bigger," the magazine says.

Speaking to Axios, Brookings' Mark Muro says this convergence of thought is legitimate. "It makes total sense that the exploitation of people for their data will lead to new forms of organization for recouping its value, or at least for extracting greater return," he says.

But, but, but: No one thinks it will be easy to devise the compensatory system. Nor, of course, that Big Tech will easily surrender to a new data marketplace.

Go deeper

Scoop: Former OMB director to set up Pro-Trump think tanks

OMB Director Russ Vought parfticipates in a photo-op for the printing of President Donald Trumps budget for Fiscal Year 2020 at the Government Publishing Office in Washington on Thursday, March 7, 2019. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Russ Vought, who led Donald Trump's Office of Management and Budget, plans to announce two pro-Trump organizations Tuesday, aiming to provide the ideological ammunition to sustain Trump's political movement after his departure from the White House.

Why it matters: The Center for American Restoration and an advocacy arm, America Restoration Action, will try to keep cultural issues that animated Trump’s presidency on the public agenda, according to people familiar with the matter.

Janet Yellen confirmed as Treasury secretary

Janet Yellen. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Senate voted 84-15 to confirm Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary on Monday.

Why it matters: Yellen is the first woman to serve as Treasury secretary, a Cabinet position that will be crucial in helping steer the country out of the pandemic-induced economic crisis.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
4 hours ago - Economy & Business

Scoop: Red Sox strike out on deal to go public

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The parent company of the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool F.C. has ended talks to sell a minority ownership stake to RedBall Acquisition, a SPAC formed by longtime baseball executive Billy Beane and investor Gerry Cardinale, Axios has learned from multiple sources. An alternative investment, structured more like private equity, remains possible.

Why it matters: Red Sox fans won't be able to buy stock in the team any time soon.