The deflation of the data exploitation economic bubble

The European Commission proposal for a 3% taxation of the turnover of economic exploitation of personal data in Europe is a major opportunity to reconsider the standard view of personal data being a new black gold. We can now realize at last that its overvaluation was pushed by interest groups who try to delay any serious understanding on the condition of creating value in the digital era and to hid the fact that data should be discussed in terms of power relations. The European Commission proposes to instate a 3% tax on this turnover and states that its proceeds would be around € 5 billion. Let’s consider this figure. € 167 billion (the turnover which would be taxed) represents 1.11% of the European GDP. Of course it is proposed to tax only companies with a high turnover in exploiting data, but such companies concentrate the major part of all data economic exploitation. The figure is about income and not profits nor even added value. In GDP terms, it is highly probable that the economic exploitation of personal data in Europe represents less that 0.5% of the European GDP. This estimate is consistent with observations that the advertising and similar activity never represented more than 1.5% of GDP and are not even reaching this level today. One of the major benefits of tax debates, it that they reveal facts that are carefully hidden by dogmas and their celebrants. Let’s note that the European Commission proposal is a well elaborated form of proposal 10 in the Elements for the Reform of Copyright and Related Cultural Policies of La Quadrature du Net. Thanks. More work will be needed before it adopts the other 13 proposals, but one is better than none.

Then, if the economic value of personal data is so limited, why is there all this fuss about this economic dwarf? The answer is that this is not an economic matter but a question of power. Not the power of making people buy specific economic products, which always at doubt, but power per se. Power to organize the environment in which each of us develops her vision of the world, the power on thoughts and bodies. And among the big corporations of this dwarf universe, who cares if data power creates chaos, destruction and insanity. Faced with the disaster that it brings about, they will only respond with trying to grab even more power on the pretext to correct their misdeeds. It is from below, from us, through groups who adopt and create their own knwoledge tools that the next world can emerge. It is already there in scraps, but to see its premises, one needs to get rid of dogmas.

This post is also available in: French

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