National Taxpayers Union Says Americans Oppose Search Engine Regulation

    March 12, 2012

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.