Pew Survey: 65 Percent of Search Users View Personalized Results Negatively

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DM CONFIDENTIAL – According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project’s “Search Engine Use 2012” report, nearly two-thirds of search users view personalized search results as a bad thing. Nevertheless, online Americans are more happy than ever with the performance of search engines.

The report found that 92 percent of internet users send or read email, followed by 91 percent who use a search engine, 76 percent who get news online, 71 percent who buy a product online and 66 percent who use social networking sites.

According to Pew, 54 percent of adult search users use a search engine to find information at least once a day, up from 35 percent who said the same in 2004. Meanwhile, 16 percent said they use a search engine to find information three to five days a week, while 15 percent said one or days a week. Seven percent of respondents said they use a search engine to find information once every few weeks, while 9 percent said they use search engines less often or never.

When asked which search engine they use most often, 83 percent of respondents said Google, followed by 6 percent who said Yahoo, 6 percent who said another search engine and 5 percent who said “none” or said they didn’t know.

Back in 2004, 47 percent of respondents said they used Google the most, followed by 26 percent for Yahoo, 19 percent for another and 8 percent who said “none,” or that they didn’t know.

Pew found that 66 percent of adult search engine users think search engines are, in general, a fair and unbiased source of information. Meanwhile, 28 percent said they think all or almost all of the information found using search engines is accurate or trustworthy, while 45 percent said most and 22 percent said some of the information is.

According to the report, 29 percent of search users in 2012 say they always find the information they’re looking for when using search engines. This number was 17 percent in 2004.

However, there’s some negative information found in the report: According to Pew, 65 percent of search users think personalized search results are a bad thing “because it may limit the information you get online and what search results you see.” Meanwhile, 29 percent said personalized results are a good thing “because it gives you results that are more relevant to you.”

These perceptions vary by age (older search users view personalized search results more negatively), ethnicity (white users have a more negative view) and income (wealthier users have a more negative view).

Pew also found that 73 percent of search users say collecting user information to personalize search results is not okay. Also, 68 percent of internet users say they’re not okay with targeted advertising “because I don’t like having my online behavior tracked and analyzed.”

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