Majority of Americans Believe Some Online Companies are Too Powerful

There is a lot of angst over the amount of information companies control about us according to a new survey conducted by Adweek/Harris Poll, but at the same time Americans are split over having government intervene.

Asked whether online companies like Facebook and Google had too much control over personal information and our browsing habits, three quarters of respondents agreed.

The survey found that:

  • Age is not a significant factor. There is only a 5% spread between age groups, though  older adults are most likely to strongly agree (41%) and the youngest adults, aged 18-34, are least likely to feel this way (31%);
  • Women are about 5% more likely to agree that companies have too much control and information about us, but men who agree are more likely to strongly agree with this position.
  • Wealth plays a role. Less affluent Americans are less likely to be concerned than those who earn over 75K per year.

In spite of the concerns, Americans aren’t sure they want the government to intervene.  Forty-six percent of Americans are more likely to oppose government intervention as a way to regulate large online companies like Google or Facebook, compared to 36% who support intervention. And 18% aren’t sure what they think.

Interestingly, it is men (38%), people aged between 35-44 (39%), and college grads (40%) who are most supportive of government intervention.  Whereas only 34% of women, and 32% of Americans age 45-54, and 34% of those will a high school degree or less support intervention.

The study ends with this summary:

With the recent announcement that Microsoft would acquire Skype, one of the most prominent VOIP calling services, in a record-breaking $8.5 billion cash deal, the omnipotence of certain online companies has become even more evident. And, it seems that control of so much information by these online companies makes Americans uncomfortable. Yet, there is no consensus that government intervention is the answer.

Rather, it seems, Americans are torn, possibly between ideals of free enterprise, the products and services that they use and enjoy which these large businesses provide, and their trepidations about companies yielding so much information and power. Either way it will be interesting to track reactions-if people embrace, or rather brace themselves against, these companies as they continue to grow and develop.



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