National Taxpayers Union Says Americans Oppose Search Engine Regulation

    March 12, 2012
    Abby Johnson
    Comments are off for this post.

The debate surrounding search engines and regulation only seems to be increasing with recent developments. Various privacy and consumer groups have encouraged the government to intervene claiming that consumers need to be protected. Although some investigations are pending, the feds have not stepped in with any action yet.

Is government regulation needed in search engines? Please comment.

Interestingly, new research reveals how the majority of Americans feel about these issues. A poll from Zogby International and commissioned by the National Taxpayers Union found that most people in the U.S. are satisfied with the search options they currently have and do not want the government to get involved.

Pete Sepp, the Executive Vice President of NTU, told WebProNews that 87 percent of the more than 2,000 respondents agreed with the following statement: “I feel I can easily switch to a competing search engine if I’m not happy with the results I receive.”

“The majorities are quite overwhelming,” said Sepp. “In fact, when asked if people thought that they could always switch to a new search if they were dissatisfied with the results they were getting, by nearly an 11-1 margin, they said so… versus those who thought that they were trapped or locked into a current search engine.”

“There’s obviously a great deal of consumer freedom, as expressed in these poll results,” he added.

Pete Sepp, Executive Vice President of the National Taxpayers Union Sepp also told us that the skepticism regarding government regulation was also “overwhelming.” When respondents were asked if “the federal government should regulate the content and appearance of search engines and their results,” 64 percent strongly disagreed while only 3 percent strongly agreed.

“We found overwhelming majorities saying that government had no business in trying to determine how search engine results should appear or how search engines should work in the first place,” said Sepp.

The NTU found that most consumers believe that if the government gets involved in search engines, that the results would be harmful. Specifically, they think that it would lead to reduced consumer choice and innovation.

The poll surveyed Americans across various demographic categories, including age, income, educational level, and ideology. However, Sepp pointed out that it was interesting how both self-identified Democrats and Republicans were against government regulation of search engines.

“It appears that once people are made aware of this issue, [they] are very, very concerned that further government and involvement will simply lead to disastrous results,” he said.

How would you vote in this poll? Let us know.

Sepp went on to say that since the message from consumers is loud and clear, the government should “speak very carefully” and “tread very lightly” in these matters.

If you remember, as WebProNews previously reported, President Obama recently released his privacy proposal that calls for Congress to implement a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. NTU is hoping that its findings will be heard by policymakers before they take any steps toward regulating the Web.

Incidentally, a new report out today from the Pew Internet and American Life Project shows that even though Americans are very satisfied with the quality of search results, they are concerned with how search engines collect and use their data. According to the report, users are particularly concerned with data collection being used to personalize results and for ad targeting purposes.

In fact, the research found that three-quarters of searchers are against data collection for personalizing results.

Also, Pew found that two-thirds of Web users have an “unfavorable” view of online targeted advertising because they do not like having their behaviors tracked and analyzed.

Based on the research from both NTU and Pew, it appears that consumers have mixed feelings about their search experience and privacy. What’s your take? Are you worried about search engines collecting your data but not enough for government to intervene? Or, would like to for the government to regulate these practices? Share your thoughts with us.

  • http://richinwriters.com Steven

    Keep government OUT of our lives! Socialism doesn’t work! If a business or a person is operating in a dishonest manner sooner or later it or they will be exposed and the people/customers/users will ultimately decide what is best for them.

    If the government regulates search engines the MAJOR CORPORATIONS and their high priced lawyers will take the internet over which means they(the major corporations) will release only the information they consider acceptable to the public! This is exactly what happens every time you turn on your television you’re fed the information Major corporations want you to hear and know about anyone speaking out about the wrong doings of corporations is quickly discredited by the mass media which is also under the control of these major corporations.

    KEEP THE GOVERNMENT OFF THE INTERNET! Most of the people who feel they need to be more protected are irresponsible with their personal information opening emails from the Kings of Nigeria or giving their personal information via email to “rich Chinese billionaires!” desperate to escape China – KEEP THE GOVERNMENT OUT!

    • Scott

      Agree. If anything the government intervention would make it much easier for the large corporations to buy their way into consumer’s wallets yet again. The role of government is to serve the people, not the corporations, and when the lure of money draws you in, it makes you ignorant of the will of the common man.

  • http://www.ellefagan.com Elle Smith Fagan

    What we have been watching in internet development is a re-iteration of creation. Like parenting. Parts of it wild without option, requiring major controls to function at all. And as the virtual child grows, refinements in character permit and require deregulation on the part of the parent and simply observing for anomaly after that, ready to swoop in if needed, but only then. We fear dangers but won’t hide under the bed over them – we watch and go carefully and prosecute incidents that occur. Setting up good rules of what constitutes an incident is the thing. I think it is the job of all to make sure that regulations governing the right and wrong be good and strong and always refining; and that NO unnecessary data is pressed, to respect privacy while optimizing security by saner means, now that the internet is evolved to the point where this is possible and preferred.

  • http://www.imarketsolutions.com/ Nadia Romeo

    Someone has to control them when they become power happy. An example: if you do not use Google plus you lose ranking, if you do not have a mobile website you lose use ranking. Wake up people quit trying to kiss up to Google in fear you that you will be ranked by Google. If you look at how the natural search appears on the first page, it is ok for relevancy. If you look at the second page, it is extremely poor. There is good reason for poor search results on the second page and sometimes on the first page, so you start to use the pay per click!

    • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

      You lose ranking where?

      I don’t use Google plus and my site shows up the same now, one of top 3 results for all relevant searches both before and after Google Plus came into existence so maybe it is a matter of, if a site blew chow before, it still blows.

      If you don’t have a mobile website? Maybe if someone is searching on their mobile it might make a difference, ya think?

      Beyond that, search results seem to suggest you might be doing nothing more than repeating what numerous other people try to claim as reasons why their sites aren’t in the top 10,000 results.

      Maybe there is something to this ‘quality’ thing?

  • http://internettvdotcom.com/ InternetTvDotCom

    The Government needs to focus on our current offline issues which is more important than screwing up (regulating) the Internet, search engines, etc. This can have a negative effect on both consumers and business owners in general. For those who opposed and feel the Internet should be regulated obviously have a hidden agenda or don’t understand the ramifications of this change if it should ever occur. I for one oppose regulating the Internet.

    There are other ways to protect consumers online. The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has done that when coming down hard on false advertising and making advertisers change their approach.

  • donny price

    There should be no regulation whatsoever by the Federal Government. The Feds have gotten too big, has no regard for the US Constitution and only wants more control over the citizens of the USA.

  • http://lots0cash.com lots0

    Privacy regulation is NEEDED with the search engines.

    The search engines need REGULATION because they obviously can’t or won’t police themselves.

    Google has already been caught bypassing user browser privacy settings in a very BlackHat way.

    This will only continue and get worse, until there is some type of legal repercussions for violating users privacy.

    To guy that went on about Socialism… Quit watching Fox News, it is rotting your brain.

    • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

      “it is rotting your brain.”

      I see you have found the perfect protection against that.

      Tin foil hats! A dime a dozen on E-Bay.

  • emma .smith

    I totally agree that government needs to stay out of this. It makes no sense turning this USA into a policed country, taking away every shred of freedom and independent thinking from us. Keep this up and we’ll be like most of the other countries in this world; smothering to death and absolutely no rights. Government has enough to do keeping us safe. It doesn’t need this much control over its people

  • Kelly R

    Government will use any excuse to regulate private business especially if they can get their hooks into any regulation of the Internet. They have been trying for years to find a way in so Internet commerce can be taxed. We must fight any attempt by congress to regulate any part of the Internet. Free speech and expression is being attacked under the cloak of consumer protection.

  • Joshuah Norton

    Many of the posts in this forum would be hilarious, if they were not evidence of passionate political engagement based entirely on mindless party line propaganda, totally divorced from reality. I guess that just reflects the sleazy, unethical culture of the SEO business – ignorant people looking for folks even more ignorant than themselves to take advantage of. It’s only natural that those above them in the slimeball food chain – like political propagandists – would own and control them like puppets on strings. Before getting out the flamethrowers consider this – I have LESS respect for so-called Liberals than for so-called Conservatives.

  • lots0

    You don’t want government or government regulation you can always move to Somalia. They don’t have to worry about pesky government regulations over there…


    The so called “good guys” at google just got caught red handed spying on people and bypassing user privacy settings in what amounts to a criminal violation of privacy, in most civilized countries.

    Google did not even get a hand slap or national news coverage over this very blackhat act of theirs.

    So, if people don’t even know their privacy is being violated, of course there are not upset by it.

    However, once they understand what information is being gathered on them and how that information is being used, their attitude changes… a lot.

    • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

      Nice comparison!

      Almost as good as, if one has a head cold or a low grade fever, just go ahead and die, right?

      If you want so much regulation, why don’t you move to Burma?

      Just as ridiculous, no?

  • http://gocabrera.com Adrian

    In my opinion there are two distinct issues here. The first is search and the results you receive based on your enquiry. Google would have you believe that by personalizing the results they are giving you more relevant results. In effect they are hoping to place more attractive adverts in front of you so you click on them and make Google more money. By basing results on what Google believes it knows about you it is, in effect, filtering the results you see and may well withhold results which would be more appropriate and important to you. I don’t believe that is the right way. When I do a search I want unbiased unadulterated results based on my search term, not what Google thinks it knows about me.

    The second issue is privacy and really the way to control this is quite simple and needs no complicated legislation to enact or enforce. Google, along with the other search engines should be obligated to give you a choice. Do you want us to be able to collect information about you and use it to personalize search results and adverts you see or not. If the answer is no that should be an end to it. The default should, of course, be NO and you are given the option to allow your personal information to be used if you wish. What could be simpler than that?

  • Sufyan

    Google must have spent hundreds of thousands to influence this survey. (Based on the fact they spent millions of dollars to destroy their competitors such as Groupon, Yelp, Facebook, Twitter and Yahoo)

  • http://www.captaincyberzone.com Cap’n Cyberzone

    The latest official C.Cz. International Poll found that most people polled prefer Cap’n Cyberzone’s website over all other Cap’ns sites!
    The Government has yet to reply but some, anonymous sources, seem to think that they agree.

    Polls are meaningless without knowing who the pollsters are, what their involvement in the poll is, the exact questions asked, the exact make-up of those questioned, etc., etc. etc.
    It’s also an election year when the propaganda and manipulation runs rampant … “buyer beware”.

  • http://www.alda-architects.com Alan

    Of course the government need to legislate to control the collection and use of private and confidential material. Imagine for one moment that someone decided to rummage through your bins every week to see who was writing to you. Or bugged your phone to check who you were phoning. How would you feel?

    Well Google and all the rest are doing the equivalent and much more. They are monitoring where you search and what you like. They are building up a picture of you, when you were born, gender, interests, political views and all the rest. I don’t thing that any corporation should be allowed to do this. Not for any reason.

    • http://www.captaincyberzone.com Cap’n Cyberzone

      The Government needs to stay the hell out of it! You need to do something for yourself! They, the governmental bureaucrats, make decisions based on political expediency, whatever is best for themselves and their careers.
      Historically, whenever the Government gets involved with Private Business it makes a mess of it or makes it worse.
      Be a cowboy … not a cow.

      • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

        Agreed Cap’n!

        Just look at the countries with the most take-down orders, according to Google’s “Transparency Report”, using their laws and courts to force Google to in affect censor the Internet.

        The US, of course, is at the top of the list! (http://www.google.com/transparencyreport/governmentrequests/removals/)

        And people want to give the US government even MORE control and power???

        Why don’t we just all lock ourselves up in solitary confinement and collectively give all our keys to the government so the government can let us out only when the government wants to, which will be never.

        People want to be protected from Google yet those they really need to worry about is their own governments.

        “Freedom”, a figment of western/westernized societies’ collective imagination.

  • http://dental-spy-implants.blog.ca don muntean

    Socialists are killing the internet – like they have done with the rest of our rights. I suspect in five years I won’t even want the ‘internet’ anymore. It’s time that we “regulate” the regulators. Sad that the world needs to be SO regulated – yup drop by drop our freedoms are eroded away…

  • http://evrn.net/ Howard Crane

    Okay, this is ridiculous. Think about this: We’re now calling our search engine use a “consumer issue” as apposed to a Human Issue. The only way to find anything online is via a search engine because Web Rings are “illegal SEO”. At-most ours is a a Business Relationship as Adsense members are the real consumers and we’re the people who make and look for content.

    So the question is not “Should government come between a consumer-producer relationship” but instead “Should the government come between business relationships?”. Google, Yahoo, and Bing have ‘taken responsibility’ for the Internet, so they’ve become our partners in quite the same way the farmer milking his cow belongs to us!
    There’s a big difference, legally, lawfully, and philosophically.

  • http://heronbilliards.com.au M Heron

    Why did we fight wars and are still fighting for freedoms, only for do-gooders to try to take them away. This is socialism where the State knows whats best for you. There’s an army of them out there and they need to be kept at bay, or in time we’ll be back to having secret police watching everything you do. There has been some bad stuff on the internet, but its overwhelmingly dwarfed by the friendships and information gained and goodstuff. Tell the Government to keep out of it. We unfortunately have a socialist government and they can’t wait to control everything, including your thoughts

  • John

    Why would anyone feel they are stuck with 1 search engine, there are plenty of search engines to choose from.

    It almost looks like people think that the major search engines are a public right. It’s just a website that got popular, if you don’t like one site, move onto another one.

  • Jerrie DeRose

    Although I do not want to see federal regulations applied to search engines, I do want the government to include search engines and cell phone companies like Google in the Federal Privacy Act. No one has the right to my private information, or anything related to my private habits including shopping, credit, etc. including search engines who can then make that information available to various companies and even sell that information to be used at will, or to put targeted ads on the social networking sites I use. I am already getting ready to purchase a phone without the apple cloud technology and drop Google as a search engine and email provider, and cancel my blogs. Anything to protect my privacy. Doctors, etc. must provide disclaimers under the federal privacy act for us to sign stating that my information will not be provided to anyone without my explicit permission, and I would like to see the government include search engines in the list of businesses that must provide that disclaimer as well.

    • http://cass-hacks.com Craig


      Setting standards and enforcing them for the handling of data, especially personal/private data, seems to me to be a perfectly reasonable thing for governments to do, as they already do as you mentioned, in the areas of medical records and the like.

      But regulating search? As with SOPA, where are the elected officials going to get enough geeks and nerds to explain technology to them in simple words they can understand, like “See Spot run, run Spot run.” so the elected officials have a clue?

      That said, Google did not get to be the size they are by selling or giving away anyone’s data. They may use information/statistics that is basically handed to them to add functionality to their services but Google’s business model has never involved giving or selling data to anyone other than those it may have been collected from.

  • Don

    Government should mind it’s own business. Government IS the problem most of the time. The Obama admin wants to regulate EVERYTHING. Leave the internet alone. Anything the government touches, they mess up. Look at the EPA for example….