Should Internet Users Be Paid By Google, Yahoo And Others For Collecting Our Private Data?

I just finished reading a very interesting article by Kevin Kelleher over at The Washington Post asking for us web users to unite and demand money from the companies who collect our data online. He states that Yahoo has $4 Billion in cash, Google has some  $22 billion in cash and they should be paying us for our surfing data. He also says that without us they never could of or would of collected all that money. Go Kevin!

He also states that:

Face it: To these companies, you are not even a human being. You are a “user” — one of the ugliest, most dehumanizing scraps of jargon to gain currency in the Internet era. It connotes the consumption or manipulation of something valuable, perhaps even in an addictive way. But our “using” the Web is only half of the story — maybe less than half. You, dear user, may use the Web, but at the end of the day, it is you who is really being used. You have become someone’s instrument for profit. And the worst part is, you’re not even getting paid.

Of course, everyone knows his or her behavior is tracked online. Some people go to great lengths to protect their privacy, but the rest of us just tolerate the snooping. And most Web sites are upfront about this practice, in a manner of speaking: They disclose it in foggy legal language tucked away in dense “terms of services” or EULAs (that is, end user licensing agreements — there’s that word again!). What they won’t tell you is this: Exactly what data have they collected on you? What does it say about you? How much are the data worth?

The short answer: an awful lot.

Kevin also states that:

So: What if we all e-mailed these companies collecting our data with our own version a “terms of service” that read like this? “By collecting, storing, selling, trading, reselling or exploiting for any commercial purposes any information about me, your site agrees to pay me a licensing fee of $100 per month.”

When I first read this I wasn’t sure exactly how to respond to what Kevin proposes. Was he being serious or was he just playing with us? I doubt if we would even have a legal claim against those who use our surfing data, however it is an interesting concept.

What do you think?

Comments welcome.