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How The Public Views Personalized Search Engines

Pew Research reveals our perceptions

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How The Public Views Personalized Search Engines
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Google has been in the news a lot lately for their new privacy policy. They claim that their new method for collecting and using data will make our experience with their search engine better, but many of us are concerned about how our information will be exploited. Pew Internet Research has just released the results of a 2012 poll aimed at getting our perceptions on search engines. The results are based on responses from telephone interviews with over 2500 adult internet users living in the United States from a variety of different demographics.

Essentially the survey hoped to uncover their perceptions about the quality of search engine performance and their feelings about how data could be collected and used to alter the way the services delivered content. I don’t think the outcome is shocking, but if the online privacy debate has been on your mind, you will find it interesting.

Pew Research collection of data on privacy:

65% agreed to the following statement:
“It’s a BAD thing if a search engine collected information about your searches and then used it to rank your future search results, because it may limit the information you get online and what search results you see”

29% agreed with the following statement:
“It’s a GOOD thing if a search engine collected information about your searches and then used it to rank your future search results, because it gives you results that are more relevant to you

73% agreed with the following statement:
“NOT BE OKAY with a search engine keeping track of your searches and using that information to personalize your future search results because you feel it is an invasion of privacy”

23% agreed with the following statement:
“Be OKAY with a search engine keeping track of your searches and using that information to personalize your future search results, even if it means they are gathering information about you”

I think it’s pretty clear that a majority of people feel that personalized results somehow censor the content and could result in biased feedback from their searches. It’s also apparent that using personalized data is considered and invasion of privacy by a majority of respondents in the study. However I think it is also key to point out that a significant percentage welcomes the idea of having more relevant search results, and that a similar percentage found data collection to be acceptable for this purpose.

68% of respondents agreed with this statement:
“I’m NOT OKAY with targeted advertising because I don’t like having my online behavior tracked and analyzed”

28% of respondents agreed with this statement:
“I’m OKAY with targeted advertising because it means I see advertisements and get information about things I’m really interested in”

Pew Research collection of data on Search Engine satisfaction:

* 91% of search engine users say they always or most of the time find the information they are seeking when they use search engines

* 73% of search engine users say that most or all the information they find as they use search engines is accurate and trustworthy

* 66% of search engine users say search engines are a fair and unbiased source of information

* 55% of search engine users say that, in their experience, the quality of search results is getting better over time, while just 4% say it has gotten worse

* 52% of search engine users say search engine results have gotten more relevant and useful over time, while just 7% report that results have gotten less relevant

So people seem to have an overwhelmingly positive outlook on the accuracy and reliablity of their search engines. I don’t know how fair this question is, but I guess it really gets at confidence rather than having an actual comparison basis. Pew also dug a little deeper and asked users about the outcomes of their searches.

Findings for quality of experience with Search Engines:

86% of users agreed to this statement:
“Learned something new or important that really helped them or increased their knowledge.”

50% of users agreed to this statement:
“Found a really obscure fact or piece of information they thought they would not be able to find.”

41% of users agreed to this statement:
“Have gotten conflicting information in search results and not been able to figure out what is correct.”

38% of users agreed to this statement:
“Have gotten so much information in a set of results that you feel overwhelmed.”

34% of users agreed to this statement:
“Found that critical information is missing from search results.”

So there you have it- people are overwhelmingly happy with the quality of their search engines and not so keen on the idea of having their data collected. Not surprising, but very interesting. It is also of interest to note that Google was the most widely used search engine by a great margin. follow the link to the original study to learn more.

How The Public Views Personalized Search Engines
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  • http://heroesnetwork.forumotion.net/portal ShowStopper

    I don’t like the fact that Google is tracking what I do. I already have to keep up with making sure that I block all tracking cookies and beacons from my computer, and I don’t want to log out every time I have to do a search.

  • http://borber.info borber

    I would say that in average people even have no idea that their info is collected, that search results they have are personalized, etc.
    In my opinion it would be fair to have this info on the SE page available and to provide people a choice what kind of results – personal or common – they want have.