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BizReport : Search Marketing : March 12, 2012

Search users say personalized results a "bad thing"

Nearly all online Americans use search engines but the vast majority are worried about their privacy should the likes of Google begin tracking their search activity.

by Helen Leggatt

pew.jpgWhen the Pew Internet & American Life Project asked 2,253 Americans whether they would be happy for their search engine queries to be tracked they found very few who would. Almost three-quarters said they would "not be OK" with it.

Some went even further in their dislike of the idea that today's searches could alter tomorrow's results. Over two-thirds (65%) said search engines tracking their activity to personalize results was very bad, specifically because it could limit future search results.

Google is, by far, the most popular search engine today with 83% of search users saying they used it most often, up from 47% in 2004. Yahoo trailed with just 6%, the survey found.

"Search engines are increasingly important to people in their navigation of information spaces, but users are generally uncomfortable with the idea of their search histories being used to target information to them," said Kristen Purcell, Pew Internet associate director for research and author of the report (.pdf).

"A clear majority of searchers say that they feel that search engines keeping track of search history is an invasion of privacy, and they also worry about their search results being limited to what's deemed relevant to them."

Tags: consumer insight, Google, online tracking, personalization, privacy issues, search engine, search marketing

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