Pew Finds Searchers Attitudes Toward Privacy Are Changing
This week the Pew Internet & American Life Project released a 2012 Search Engine Use study. There were few surprises and one nasty and emerging trend as indicated by the published summary:
Search engines remain popular—and users are more satisfied than ever with the quality of search results—but many are anxious about the collection of personal information by search engines and other websites and say they do not like the idea of personalized search results or targeted advertising.
Though they generally do not support targeted search or ads, these users report very positive outcomes when it comes to the quality of information search provides, and more positive than negative experiences using search.
This is good news and bad news for companies like Google. People will still flock to its search engine on a daily basis, but are going to be less and less amenable to all the tracking. And it is not just Google doing the tracking, it’s everyone. Amazon dogs you when you are on the site with some serious tracking that essentially keeps trying to resell you stuff you already bought. It’s laughable.
Amazon tracking is mostly about buying things. Google, on the other hand, tries to track everything you do to put together essentially a search dossier to figure out what might be important to you. Google and other search engines reckon they can get you better results if they know a little something about you. You know, like where you live, your political affiliation, information about your spouse and children. The same sort of stuff the old grizzled busybody hag down the street is always interested in. Google has essentially become an old snoop.
Until recently, the public has put up with all this, not really caring much about its privacy one way or the other. The big news, to me at least, is that attitude is changing. Good! It’s about time.
The Pew folks concluded this from its numbers:
73% of search users supported a statement that they would not be okay with a search engine keeping track of their searches and using that information to personalize future search results because they feel it is an invasion of privacy…
65% of search users supported a statement that it’s a bad thing if a search engine collected information about their searches and then used it to rank future search results, because it may limit the information they get online and what search results they see.