Although Yang’s initiative for a Universal Basic Income has been panned by both Republicans and his opponents challenging him in the Democratic Primary, for those actually listening to the logic behind the proposal, it makes a lot of sense.
Yang’s critics have desperately tried to create the narrative that, while he may be an immensely successful businessman, he is a fiscally irresponsible wannabe politician attempting to buy votes by promising free money to lazy Americans.
However, Yang wants you to know that giving every American One Thousand dollars a month is not a money-for-nothing scheme, but a debt already owed to those on the bottom wrung of the economic ladder whose everyday practices are leveraged to enrich the wealthiest business in the country, most of whom pay nothing in taxes.
Yang believes that technology as we know it has accelerated so quickly that it has not scaled with how it impacts the end-user. That ignorance has been monetized by tech savvy monoliths like Facebook, Google, Yahoo! Youtube, and millions of websites who place trackers into the users machine and scrape their data every time they fire up their computer.
Most of the data harvested is unbeknownst to the user who remains relatively unaware of the extent that their information is being taken, often without direct permission. Locations visited, your age, gender, sexual orientation, email addresses, telephone numbers, search terms used, browsing websites, shopping, social media activity, personal interests and political ideologies are just a small sample of information harvested in real time from every single internet user. Unlike the United Kingdom, which has implemented laws protecting internet users from having their data scraped, the United States has no such protections in place.
This information is used to create a profile on every individual ad their online behavior. It is compiled by any number of data collecting agencies who then sell it to advertisers, demographic surveyors, analytics researchers and businesses, such as credit agencies.
Your information has become one of the modern eras hottest commodities, with some companies paying sites like Facebook millions of dollars for user information. Your online activity has brought rise to billion dollar industry that use it to estimate everything from your household income to your political leanings so those who purchase it can target you with targeted ads. Let’s be honest, the Internet is all ads with a few web pages thrown in for good measure. Some of the most trafficked websites feature hundreds of ads and install dozens of trackers.
And not all of your information is secure. In the last year alone we’ve see massive data breaches that have directly effected internet users, even if they don’t use the services impacted- they still had your information. Facebook, Yahoo, Equifax and hundreds of other data purchasers and collection sites have been compromised, in some cases, putting up to 4 billion people at risk.
Rarely are those affected by such negligence compensated for the breach, even if the companies must pay a fine to government watchdog agencies.
Yang’s proposal to pay Americans a monthly stipend hinges on this imbalanced, some might even say, unethical relationship between common technology users and the data agencies making billions off of them.
It was just two years ago that Cambridge Analytica, in partnership with Facebook, was caught harvesting the personal data of millions of peoples’ Facebook profiles without their consent and using it for political advertising purposes.
While billion dollar entities pass around data that has been mined from everything including your telephone and internet browser, you never see a penny. To compound that, you are’t given the opportunity to opt out as companies have buried language to protect them deep within their legalese leaving you no recourse either. Shutting yourself off from all internet activity and telephone usage does not make one safe. Every credit card purchase you make, home loan you apply for, property you purchase that is recorded in public court records, trademark or copyright application, taxes you file- it all contributes to a profile built explicitly to reflect who you are- and that has a market value.
Yang disputes that his monthly payment to Americans is simply a reckless tossing around of cash, but a payment long overdue for every American whose virtual existence has bee monetized by companies like Amazon.
You are under constant surveillance today, often in ways that are legally questionable- and should be compensated for that. If someone wishes to sell off your data for a massive sum, you should see dividends from such a sale given you are the very product they’re profiteering from.