Power, politics and privacy concerns appear to be eroding American’s view of big tech.

Half of Americans view technology companies positively, falling steeply from the 71% who gave them a thumbs up four years ago, a Pew Research survey released this week found. 

The percentage of individuals who have a negative opinion of tech firms nearly doubled over this period, from 17% to 33%. 

The findings come amid an onslaught of tech company criticism over political bias, failure to protect data and vulgar social media content. Last month the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it would investigate whether Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple, among others, behaved like monopolies, unfairly undercutting competition as they built market share. The House Judiciary Committee and Federal Trade Commission, which has anti-trust supervisory responsibilities, are also examining whether these companies’ practices harmed the public. 

No companies were mentioned in the Pew survey. 

Still, tech has a better image than Congress, the media and large corporations. 

Congress got a 17% approval rating in Gallup’s early July survey. Regarding media and corporate America, Pew wrote “On balance, more Americans say large corporations and the news media have a negative effect on the way things are going than say these institutions have a positive impact.” 

Facebook has had to defend itself for sharing users personal data with advertisers too freely and spreading false information. Other tech companies have suffered high-profile breaches that have sapped public confidence in them. 

The investigations, coupled with Pew’s latest research and several reports over the past couple of years, may create a more challenging environment for tech startups to show that they are conducting business ethically.  

Declining Reputation

Pew Research has found a similar diminishment of tech companies’ status over multiple surveys. In a 2018 Pew survey, 55% of almost 5,000 Americans said that tech companies held too much power and influence. The same survey found that almost 65% of the participants said that tech companies weren’t thinking enough about the impact of their actions, while 24% said that these firms were doing enough to protect their users’ information. 

The findings dovetail with other studies that have portrayed tech firms in a lesser light than previously. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll in April found that six in 10 Americans don’t trust Facebook, and that a nearly identical percentage said such platforms were dividing the country. 

Karma Takeaway: The latest Pew Research survey on technology companies reflects a diminished respect for these organizations and may create a more challenging environment for start-ups to show they are operating ethically.