Survey Reveals Majority of Respondents Disapprove of Personalized Search

March 29, 2012: During the beginning of March, the Pew Research Center released its Search Engine Use 2012 Survey, which ran from Jan. 20 to Feb. 19 of 2012 and sampled 2253 adults ages 18 and older. The study, conducted by the Princeton Survey Research Institute, revealed the majority of Internet users are uncomfortable with websites collecting information about them and using it to personalize search results. This information comes at a particularly relevant time, as Google recently implemented its new privacy policy, which allows user information to be collected and combined into a single profile.

From Google’s blog: “Our privacy policies have always allowed us to combine information from different products with your accounts. However, we’ve been restricted in our ability to combine your YouTube and search histories with other information in your account. Our new privacy policy gets rid of those inconsistencies so we can make more of your information available to you when using Google.”

However, the majority of survey participants don’t see it that way. According to the survey, 56 percent of participants ages 18–29 felt dissatisfied with personalized search results because they claimed it limited the information they got online as well as which search results they saw. Those surveyed in the 30–49 and 50+ categories agreed with this statement at 67 percent and 70 percent, respectively. Overall, 65 percent of survey respondents viewed personalized search as a negative, as opposed to just 29 percent who indicated they were in favor of the service because it provided results more relevant to the user.

These results show users across all age brackets are, for the most part, uncomfortable with search engines collecting their personal information and using it to shape results. While Google’s privacy policy was put into place to cater search results toward individual users, the survey indicates the majority of users disapprove of the limited information that comes with personalized search.

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