The Tech Herald

Users love search accuracy but remain anxious about privacy

by Steve Ragan - Mar 12 2012, 15:15

Users love search engine accuracy but remain anxious about privacy.(IMG:J.Anderson)

According to a report from Pew Internet, search engines remain popular among Internet users, and they’re extremely satisfied with the quality of results returned after a given query. At the same time, most adults disapprove with the collection of personal information in order to offer targeted advertising and personalized search results.

The results of the Pew Internet study were released on Friday. According to the data collected from 2,253 adults, nearly all of the respondents (91-percent) reported a positive experience when using a search engine. This includes the 86-percent that mentioned learning something new, or discovering something important that led to a better understanding of a given topic.

When it comes to search destination of choice, Google is the clear winner – perhaps the only winner – with 83-percent respondents naming the search giant as their favorite hunting ground online. After Google, Yahoo was the second most popular engine, but it was only mentioned by 6-percent of the respondents.

Given the recent changes on Google’s privacy policies, and the media attention the changes gained, it came as no surprise when 65-percent of those who took part in the study said it was a bad thing if a search engine collected information about their searches and then used it to rank your future search results.

“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, the associate director for research for Pew Internet.

“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.”

In addition, 73-percent said they are not ok with search engines that store records for previous queries in order to personalize and rank future results, and 68-percent said they did not like having their online behavior analyzed and tracked in order to promote targeted advertising.

Unfortunately, 62-percent of those who took part in the Pew Internet study said they were not aware of ways to protect themselves from such information collection and analytics.

“Many people express concerns about targeted search and ads, but most internet users don’t have a sense that they can take steps to limit the amount of personal information that is captured and used by search engines and websites,” said Joanna Brenner, the web coordinator for Pew Internet.

Those that claimed they were aware of how to go about remaining somewhat private online mentioned deleting Web history information, or altering the privacy settings on a given website, as their top actions. Browser settings was the third most popular method of protection.

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