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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

7 mins ago - World

Biden to push vaccine-sharing at UN, but boosters at home

Expand chart
Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

President Biden will convene world leaders on Wednesday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly to push them to do more to end the pandemic — though he's also facing criticism for prioritizing boosters at home.

Why it matters: There is still no functional plan in place to vaccinate the world, and past summits of this sort have flopped. The White House hopes that this virtual gathering will produce ambitious promises, accountability measures to track progress, and ultimately help achieve a 70% global vaccination rate this time next year.

GOP operatives accused of funneling Russian cash to Trump

Jesse Benton, spokesman for the Ron Paul campaign, speaking to reporters in the spin room after the CNN Debate on January 1, 2012. Photo: Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc/Corbis via Getty Images

A former senior aide to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul was indicted this month for allegedly funneling $25,000 from a wealthy, unnamed Russian to former President Trump's reelection efforts.

The big picture: The Justice Department alleges that Jesse Benton, 43, the husband of Paul's niece and a veteran Republican staffer, orchestrated a scheme to conceal the illegal foreign donation with another GOP operative, Doug Wead.

Biden to raise refugee admissions cap to 125,000

Afghan refugees arrive at Dulles International Airport after being evacuated from Kabul. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Biden administration will raise the refugee admissions cap to 125,000 for the next fiscal year beginning in October, the State Department confirmed in a statement Monday.

Why it matters: The move comes as the U.S. contends with resettling tens of thousands of Afghan refugees stateside, and as the world faces "unprecedented global displacement and humanitarian needs," the department wrote.