First, they suggested taxing Google’s personalized ads to boost French advertisers. Then, they tried to tax Google News to finance the French press.
Now, the French government has suggested taxing the collection of personal data by Internet companies, according to a report put out Jan. 18. The main target would be American companies like Google, Facebook, or Amazon, whose data mining efforts generate enormous advertising profits but precious little tax revenue for countries like France.
Google, which generates $30 billion in advertising each year, $2 billion of which comes from France, pays very little in French taxes (prompting a recent $1 billion lawsuit), because the companies realizing those gains are not Google France, but Google Ireland or Google US, says Félix Treguer, a frequent French commentator on internet policy issues.
The report’s two authors, Pierre Collin (an advisor to President Hollande) and Nicolas Colin, a government auditor, suggest generating tax revenue from a whole segment of commercial activity—the collection of personal data (called the “raw material” of the digital economy), the subsequent customization of services and advertising, and the profits this all represents—that has allowed for the delocalization of profits from revenue.