Survey: Is It Time for Tech to Face U.S. Government Regulation?

It’s mid-2019, and we’re still dealing with the fallout from 2018. Issues with companies such as Facebook have surfaced broader questions about tech, leading some to question if the industry deserves to be regulated by the government.

But does it? About half of people questioned in a recent Pew study say tech companies such as Facebook and Google need “more” regulation. Around 44 percent of people who identify as Republicans (or lean that direction) say tech needs to be regulated more stringently, while 57 percent of Democrats agree.

Meanwhile, 38 percent of total respondents to that Pew study say things are fine, and nine percent say tech should (somehow) be regulated less than its current state. On that front, Republicans and Democrats have different views; 12 percent of Republicans say tech needs less regulation, compared to seven percent of Democrats. Some 43 percent of Republicans say things are fine, and only 35 percent of Democrats agree.

In a Dice survey earlier this year, 44.2 percent of tech pros said all major tech companies should be split up; only 24.2 percent said tech companies such as Facebook, Google, and Amazon should be left alone.

Our survey took place in the midst of Facebook’s troubles, and things have only worsened since. The company faces a massive fine that many believe should nonetheless be higher. It’s telling that, in our survey, more people wanted Facebook split up than Google or Amazon.

Facebook isn’t the only bad actor, but it’s causing an uproar about regulation in tech. CEO Mark Zuckerberg says his company would welcome regulation, but also says he should serve as the company’s figurehead for regulation (and as a liaison to the government if regulations become a thing). This is antithetical to progress.

What remains to be seen is what “regulation” looks like. Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes says his former company (and by virtue, all tech companies) should be regulated down to “acceptable speech.” Another proposal: a Data Bill of Rights, which would give users far more control over how their data is collected, stored, and treated.

To wit, Hughes’ proposal is unconstitutional (hello, First Amendment!). A Data Bill of Rights hits at the heart of the matter when it comes to our personal data. Tech companies are starting to cow to the idea of boosted privacy: At I/O 2019, for instance, Google introduced Android Q, which has tools to help users remove their personal data from Google’s grasp.

Critics say this doesn’t go far enough: who will actually go in and delete their data from a Facebook, Google, or Amazon? All three make that option available, but none allow you to prevent data collection from happening in the first place, or promise to handle that data in a responsible manner.

No matter what regulations actually look like (if implemented), the question is whether we should have them in the first place. Tech’s self-regulation can be improved, but do companies need to be held more accountable? Should the U.S. government take a more direct approach to monitoring the industry? Let us know in the survey above! All responses are anonymous, and we’ll be publishing our results in a future article on Dice Insights.