Google Most Popular Search Engine Despite Privacy Concerns

By Ed Silverstein March 14, 2012

When online users had to pick what search engine they liked the best the answer was clear. An overwhelming 83 percent of those asked in a Pew survey said it was Google.

The recent Pew Internet & American Life Project-sponsored survey included questions posed to 2,253 adults, including 1,729 Internet users, according to news reports. The last time Pew asked the same question in 2004, 47 percent selected Google, The Associated Press reported. In addition, Google is earning a lot more in the years since the earlier survey. Ad revenue from Google led to $36.5 billion in revenue during 2011 — compared to $3 billion during 2004, the AP said.

In the most recent survey, Yahoo was a distant second. Yahoo was selected by 6 percent, compared to 26 percent in 2004.

Yet, even with Google’s popularity, users responding to the survey were often concerned about the way it collects data and its ad practices, and considered the search engine “intrusive,” The AP said.

“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,” Kristen Purcell, Pew Internet associate director for research and author of the report, said in an organization statement. “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.”

Almost three-fourths of search engine users do not want the search engines to go through personal info to provide results based on their interests, according to The AP. Similarly, over two-thirds questioned do not to be sent “customized ads because they don't want their Web surfing activities to be tracked and analyzed.”

Google’s new privacy policy went into effect on March 1. The survey was taken before Google introduced the new privacy policy, TechZone360 reported.

Under the new policy, Google collects info about a user’s behavior on Google’s sites such as Google, Google+, YouTube and Gmail. The profile it generates can let marketers be aware of users who may like certain products. The new policy was attacked by several consumer and privacy advocates.

“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,” Joanna Brenner, Pew Internet web coordinator and report co-author, added in the organization’s statement.

Overall, Americans like to use search engines. Some 59 percent of Americans who go online will use a search engine at least once day, according to The AP. That compares to 29 percent in 2004.

In addition, some 52 percent of those questioned said that search results are now more relevant and useful, according to the Pew survey.

Edited by Tammy Wolf

TechZone360 Contributor

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