Should the U.S. Government Regulate Tech?

Axios logoWhen it comes to politics in today’s world, it is an understatement to suggest that we live in divided times. Although our founding fathers imagined passionate (but healthy) debate leading to the best possible compromise solutions – today, it seems as though our representatives are more likely to throw a hand-grenade than an idea to the other side of the aisle. But recently, a new study has come out to suggest that an issue has arisen that has brought Americans together – and it spells trouble for the tech industry.

See what a survey suggests needs to happen to the tech industry…

Political specialty website Axios recently reported on a survey they conducted in partnership with Survey Monkey on the topic of how consumers feel about the tech industry. This has become a topic of great concern these days after a series of concerning incidents involving big tech’s involvement in Russian meddling in the U.S. election and several prominent hacks that violate the privacy of various website and social media users.

One of the findings from that survey is that a majority of Americans are more concerned that the government won’t do enough to regulate tech. Given that the country is now being governed by a Republican majority in both houses of the Congress and a Republican President that has been aggressively focused over the last 12-14 months on steadily unwinding a series of regulations in order to unfetter business – it is remarkable that citizens are interested in adding more regulation. And this view that the government needs to regulate tech, by the way, even includes a signficant percentage of Republicans, a party typically for whom government regulations are anathema.

Startling Speed of American Sentiment Against Tech

Another startling element to this story is just how fast sentiment has shifted. In a graph published by Axios, the view of American citizens was taken both in November 2017, and again in February 2018…revealing a dramatic shift in thinking. In November, about 40% of all Americans were concerned that government will not go far enough to regulate tech. This rating jumped fully 15 points to 55%, or a majority of America, in just a little more than three months later.

Axios Survey Monkey results

This survey result shows clearly that Americans want government to step in and regulate tech in the wake of Russian election meddling and various data breeches compromising user privacy. But what is really interesting is how quickly this issue is growing with citizens as shown in this graph with a November 2017 rating on the left…and a February 2018 rating – only a little more than 3 months later – on the right.
[Click to enlarge]

In breaking down that overall number for the views of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, we see that the desire for government to regulate tech increased with each of them. In the case of Democrats, who typically tend to support business regulation, the rating jumped from 50% of all Democrats supporting regulation of tech in November, to 64% in February – a 14 point jump.

Even Republicans Want Government Regulation

Response from Republicans jumped 14 points as well, from 31% to 45%. Surprisingly, the biggest jump was with Independents, with a 20 point increase from 37% in November to 57% in February.

According to Axios: “That’s a seismic shift in the public’s perception of Silicon Valley over a short period of time… It shows how worried Americans are about Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and reflects a growing anxiety about fake news and the potentially addictive nature of some of the tech companies’ products.”

Barack Obama Warns Tech

Even former President Barack Obama weighed in on the topic, saying at a conference recently that tech companies like Facebook and Google “need to have a conversation about their business model and ‘recognize that they are a public good as well as a commercial enterprise.'”

We in tech only have ourselves to blame for the way this situation has developed. Clearly, every thinking person in tech today – even if you’re not a 20-something “bro” founding a billion dollar social media enterprise – recognizes the many ethical issues surrounding user privacy, data security, and responsibility. But as Facebook, Google and others chased billions of dollars in advertising revenues, the greater priority turned to the money chase – at the expense of our users’ privacy.

Selling Out Users

The very valuable item social media enterprises have to sell, is their user data, of which they have collected way more than any of us even know. It appears that the Facebook’s of the world were only too happy to sell their user data to anyone wishing to purchase it…for any reason.

Something was bound to give…and now, these users and other citizens want the government to step in to take control of the situation by regulating and overseeing tech.

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About Ted

A sales and marketing specialist - primarily in the technology industry - I've experienced a sort of "circle of life" in business. I've been a mass merchant retailer, a specialty retailer, a specialty manufacturer, a large volume manufacturer, a distributor, and even represented sales representatives. Now the owner of a marketing company that works with a variety of businesses on improving their strategic marketing and business development - I analyze issues from all angles to develop holistic solutions.

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