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.


I reproduce here the text of an op-ed originally published on La Quadrature du Net’s website. Yet another? But yet another what? One does not even know. Once more tens of people killed, many more injured. Once more, a human being has carried them over towards death and suffering in his trajectory of violence and […]

Fundamental rights: shameful manoeuvring of the French socialists (and others)

Update : The French S&D MEPs succeeded, to obtain the deletion of the 4th part. Shame on them. Further update after analysis of the votes. The governmental right wing parties (PPE and ECR) voted for the deletion of parts 2 and 4 as could be expected. The S&D (social-democrats) voted in most cases for keeping […]

How should we frame and serve cultural rights in the digital age ?

This post gives the core of what I said in the panel on « Legalizing file-sharing: an idea whose time has come – or gone? » in the Information Influx conference organized to celebrate the 25 years of IViR, the Institute of Information Law in Amsterdam on 4 July 2014. The panel brought together 4 […]

Political asylum in France for Edward Snowden now!

published at the occasion of the first anniversary of the Snowden revelations and a large-scale campaign in France demanding President Hollande to grant constitutional asylum to Edward Snowden.

Don’t harm the best effort Internet to compensate for the loss of roaming income

This post has undergone various limited revisions since its original publication. When not purely cosmetical, these revisions are signaled through footnotes. The European Parliament is presently in the last stages of first reading for a revision of the telecom regumation. This revision addresses two facets: roaming costs for international mobile communications and network neutrality. Cancelling […]

Will French Parliamentarians Consent to a Democratorship?

Numerous reactions are now being voiced against the inclusion in the 2014-2019 Defense Bill of article 13 whose provisions enable a pervasive surveillance of online data and communications. Gilles Babinet, appointed in 2012 as French Digital Champion to Nellie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda for Europe, was quoted [fr] […]

A senior beginner

Photo Jean Salvat Madeleine V. is my partner’s aunt. She just started using computers and the internet, a 95 years old beginner. Yesterday, we received her first email. She was motivated and assisted by the staff of Résidence Canarie, the old people’s home in Argelès-Gazost. I promised her a post on this blog is she […]

The maelström of Violet

See footnote for more on the context of this entry1. Five dancers at the back of the scene. Motionless, regularly spaced. On the left, a drums set, the usual instruments of electronic music, and an also immobile musician. It lasts, and tension builds. Then one of them, the taller one, starts to raise his arm […]

It’s just time

In Europe and elsewhere, societies are in a strange state. Even when not voicing it, many are indignant at social injustice, at the apathy in face of ecological challenges, at the ruling groups, their blind economicism and their colluded interests, at the development of pervasive control and surveillance. Meanwhile, citizens and societal groups develop new […]

Sharing is a cultural right, not a market failure

An endless stream of law proposals, soft-law initiatives and free-trade agreements keeps trying to eradicate or prevent the non-market sharing of digital works between individuals. New strategies are pushed using incentives and threats so that intermediaries will police the Internet to save the scarcity-based business models of a few from the competition of abundance. So […]

The body as architecture

I carry on my episodical chronicles of contemporay dance performances on this blog. My literary experimentation blog could be better suited, but it is in French only. The yearly Rencontres Choréographiques de la Seine-Saint-Denis are back, and with them the pleasure of discoveries for the intermittent amateur. Tamara Bacci, Marthe Krummenacher and Perrine Valli are […]

Discussion of the Onlife Manifesto

The Onlife Manifesto was produced by a multidisciplinary group for the European Commission DG Connect. Its focus is “what it means to be human in a hyperconnected world”. I was one of 7 people asked to react to it at the occasion of its publication on 8 February 2013 in Brussels. The others were representatives […]

Expropriation from the common heritage

Some context for English speaking readers: on 15 January 2013 the French National Library (BnF) has signed public-private partnerships for the digitizing of 70000 ancient books (up to 1700) and 200,000 78 and 33 rpm sound recordings of patrimonial value. These partnerships, respectively with ProQuest and Believe, grant a 10 years exclusive commercial exploitation right […]

We need a new formulation of end-to-end analysis

End-to-end analysis is the major theoretization of the Internet that was proposed by Jerome Saltzer, David Reed and David Clark from 1981. In their seminal paper and later ones, they formulated what became known as the end-to-end principle, interpreted often as “application-specific functions ought to reside in the end hosts of a network rather than […]