Major platforms could have to pay for their data. Photo Illustration: Chris Jackson/Getty

Matt Hancock, the UK's minister for digital issues, said today that he is open to forcing platforms such as Facebook and Google to pay for the data they mine from their hundreds of millions of users.

Why it matters: In his remarks to Axios, Hancock may be the first senior Western government official to publicly offer a challenge to Facebook and Google's fundamental business model.

The major platforms — Google, Facebook and Twitter among them — earn their enormous returns largely by offering their consumer services for free in an effective exchange for the data reflective of users' online behavior. That data allows the platforms to offer advertisers highly micro-targeted audiences for their messages.

But new legislation to take effect in the EU on May 25 would begin to erode that compact.

  • The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) gives consumers greater rights to control who gets their data.
  • And the follow-on ePrivacy Regulation, to take effect some time in 2019, will put in place much more rigid requirements for individual consent for the sale and use of customer data.

Hancock said these moves will establish a framework in which a market structure could be built for such a data payment system. Among ideas raised for such a system is an auction in which platforms would bid for aggregated user data.

Go deeper

SurveyMonkey poll: Trump improves, but not enough

Trump and Biden during the final debate. Photo: Xinhua/Liu Jie via Getty Images

President Trump's final debate performance exceeded Americans' expectations, but it wasn't enough to shift the dynamics that left him trailing Joe Biden across most measures, according to a new Axios-SurveyMonkey poll.

What they're saying: "Liar" was the word used most by debate watchers to describe Trump's performance, followed by "lies," "strong," "presidential" and "childish." "Presidential" was the word used most to describe Biden's performance, followed by "liar," "weak," "expected" and "honest."

Hunter Biden saga dominates online debate

Data: NewsWhip; Table: Axios Visuals

The mainstream media turned away. But online, President Trump's charges about Hunter Biden were by far the dominant storyline about the final presidential debate, according to exclusive NewsWhip data provided to Axios.

  • Coverage of business dealings by Joe Biden's son — and pre-debate allegations by one of his former business associates, Tony Bobulinski — garnered more than twice as much online activity (likes, comments, shares) as the runner-up.

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