Most People Feel Personalized Search Results Are Bad and Violates Privacy (Study)

Person Feeling ScaredAfter Google’s first ouch (Google+ low user engagement report), the company is now receiving a second hit from another respectable research firm which found in a new study that most users are seeing personalized search in a bad light.

The report, from the Pew Research Center, has examined many trends and aspects in search engine usage on 2012. The findings are based on a phone survey among 2,253 adults (more than 18 years of age) in the U.S. between January 20th to February 19th.

Although the study is establishing Google once again as the most popular search engine (83% are using Google most often, Yahoo second with 6%, Bing nowhere to be found), some of Google’s recent strategic moves are perceiving very negatively.

The big majority of the respondents (65%) feel that personalized search results are a bad thing as they limits the information received. Only 29% feel that personalized results are in fact a good thing as they provides more relevant results for the user.

Search Engine Personalized Results Survey

To be fair, Google isn’t the only one offering personalized search experience and Bing (which also powering Yahoo search) is also trying to provide this kind of personalized search experience. However, due to Google total domination over the industry and the fact it is the only one pushing personalization so vigorously, makes the findings mostly attributed to it.

Google began integrating more aggressively personalized results based on Google+ at the beginning of the year while suffering from a lot of raging criticism and negative reviews. But this is the most serious study so far that “awarding” such a poor glance over the whole concept of this upgrade.

But those findings aren’t the only bad news for Google. 73% of the respondents answered that they are not OK with keeping track of their private user information in order to personalize their search results, while only 23% answered they are OK with it.

Search Engine Private Information Survey

Again, even though this question isn’t specifically targeted towards Google, it is mostly associated with it. Google’s new privacy policy, which went live on March 1st, received lots of negative press and it is even in the process of some international investigation due to alleged misuse of the user private information.

It is important to mention that even though Google is taking most of the fire (this dominance thing again), it isn’t the only one collecting the users search history for personalization. Already back on September 2011, Bing stated they are collecting the user search history for 28 days when the user isn’t logged in and for 18 months if he is connected.

I think that there’s a lot of misconception and lack of knowledge about personalized search results. Yes, it is true that Google probably pushed it a little too far (I opted it out myself) but when hopefully they will find the right balance, I believe it holds a great potential for a much better search experience.

I also tried to emphasis in this post that even though Google is in the center of criticism it is hardly the only one doing these things. As I stated, it’s biggest rival Bing is doing (or trying to at least) the exact same things but it is simply too small for someone to notice…

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