ATLANTA—Profits from technological revolutions mostly inure to the benefit of those who first discover the means to produce valuable output from their discoveries. Manufacturers found ways to harness power, machines, and labor to produce saleable goods in the industrial revolution. Radio, television, and telephone companies restricted consumer choices for their own economic benefit. Internet companies have matched both raw and processed data with consumers and businesses willing to pay for such information, in some cases reselling to them the very data they themselves produced.
However, just because a small cadre of capitalists has managed to grab most of the early income from these changes does not mean that society cannot question the fairness of the money distribution or the value to our economy of the rising new order. From Smith to Marx, from Teddy Roosevelt to the telephone trustbusters to U.S. v. Microsoft, important economic thinkers have analyzed how value is created with new technologies and whether certain economic actors are hoarding more than their fair share of rewards. Such analysis of the new information economy is beginning to be spoken aloud and may soon seep into government policy. Senator Elizabeth Warren, on the campaign trail for 2020, just endorsed a regulatory plan aimed at breaking up some of America’s largest tech companies, including Amazon, Google, Apple, and Facebook. Tim Wu, writing in The New York Times, suggests that for democratic hopefuls in the upcoming presidential election, the problem of monopoly power may be the issue. The Economist recently opined that “if governments don’t want a data economy dominated by a few giants, they will need to act soon.”
The question of valuing data will be crucial in the face of two of the defining political issues of our day: rising income inequality and the oncoming (autonomous) train of artificial intelligence. In fact, to some academics, the very way we find purpose in our lives may well depend on the manner in which we as a society choose to give value to data.
Womble Bond Dickinson attorneys Phil Gura and Ted Claypoole have written an in-depth new article for Business Law Today on the historic and economic connections between data and value, and how public policy decisions can help bridge the digital divide.
Phil Gura has more than 30 years of experience helping companies manage privacy, data security, governance and regulatory compliance challenges. For the past 15 years, he has served as the Chief Legal Officer of major corporations, including Merchant Customer Exchange LLC (MCX), RaceTrac Petroleum Inc. and LaRoche Industries, Inc. His in-house experience includes managing and directing corporate governance, regulatory/compliance, privacy/ data security and intellectual property efforts.
Ted Claypoole leads Womble’s Privacy and Cybersecurity Team, IP Transactions Team, and FinTech Team, and he recently stepped down as chair of the ABA’s Cyberspace Law Committee and stepped onto the ABA Business Law Section Leadership Council. He has managed responses to scores of data exposure incidents in all types of businesses and has served as in-house tech counsel for CompuServe and Bank of America. With former White House CIO Theresa Payton, Ted has published the booksProtecting Your Internet Identity: Are You Naked Online? and Privacy in the Age of Big Data.