Rockaway lawmaker introduces first data dividend bill in New York

Courtesy of Pheffer Amato’s office

Rockaway Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato has introduced innovative legislation calling for tech companies who profit off their consumers’ data to contribute a portion of their gross income into a new mutual fund managed by the state, which would pay out a yearly dividend to taxpayers. The bill is the first of its kind in the state for the creation of a data dividend.

“Every status, like or comment we post, photo we upload, song we listen to, email we send, basically every activity we partake in on the internet or through our phones is used by tech giants for substantial profit,” Pheffer Amato said. “I love being able to keep in touch with my friends and family over social media, drive to and from Albany with the least amount of traffic with my GPS, but the reality is every time I use these apps, my information is sold. I fully support tech companies simplifying our lives, and making our world better by using data responsibly, but consumers should get their fair share.”

Examples of a dividend distributed to taxpayers through a state managed investment fund already exist, one model is the Alaska Permanent Fund. The Permanent Fund invests a 25 percent revenue tax leveled every year on oil and mineral activity in the state into a mutual fund that pays a yearly dividend. Last year’s dividend was $1,600 for every eligible Alaskan resident, including children.

“By creating a state-run mutual fund that distributes a yearly dividend, New York taxpayers get more money in their pockets from profits they create,” Pheffer Amato said.

The idea of a 5 percent revenue tax on companies that profit from the sharing of data originated from Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes in 2018. According to estimates on the numbers of users and data rate per user, Facebook made between $480 million and $960 million worldwide in 2019 by selling their users data.

Pheffer Amato announced that she helped pass a legislative package to bolster anti-discrimination protections for New Yorkers with disabilities and improve their access to vital resources in recognition of this year’s Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day on Jan. 29.

“Each and every one of us has the right to live our lives with dignity and to be treated with respect, that doesn’t change for New Yorkers with disabilities,” Pheffer Amato said. “This legislation helps ensure that individuals with disabilities are given every chance at success, can live as independently as possible and have access to the support and resources they deserve.”

To protect an employee’s ability to defend themselves against injustices, the Assembly passed legislation that would restore the rights of state employees to sue the state for damages due to violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act. Pheffer Amato also helped pass legislation that would encourage more accessible housing by creating a tax credit for new or retrofitted principal residences that are universally designed to be accessible and adaptable housing.

“These bills are a result of grassroots efforts by the hardworking advocates and organizations in the disability community,” Pheffer Amato said. “Working with these stakeholders, we were able to craft policies that truly benefit everyone and address the complex needs of New Yorkers with disabilities.”