Google's search engine outranks rivals by a wide margin, according to a Pew Internet Project survey released Friday. However, a majority of U.S. adults are opposed to receiving targeted advertising and view the delivery of future search results based on their own search history to be an invasion of privacy.
Of the 2,253 American adults surveyed earlier this year, 91 percent said they use search engines -- just one percentage point below those who said they send or read e-mail. Moreover, 83 percent of the survey's respondents said they use Google more often than any other search engine, with Yahoo ranking a distant second at a mere 6 percent.
What's more, 66 percent of the survey's respondents view search engines as fair and unbiased sources of information, and 52 percent say their search results have gotten more relevant and useful over time.
"There continues to be widespread faith in search results, and perceptions of fairness and bias have not changed at all over the past eight years," said the new Pew report's authors, Kristen Purcell, Joanna Brenner and Lee Rainie.
Still, 40 percent of searchers said they have received conflicting or contradictory search results and were unable to determine which information was correct.
"About four in ten also say they have gotten so much information in a set of search results that they felt overwhelmed," Purcell, Brenner and Rainie wrote.
Personalized Search Reservations
Though Google has been extolling the consumer benefits of the search engine giant's new policies concerning its collection and usage of the personal data across the company's swath of web properties, a substantial majority of search engine users hold a negative view of such practices.
For example, when asked about search engines collecting personalized information about their searches and then using this data to rank their future search results, two out of three respondents expressed a negative reaction. Moreover, 75 percent regarded the practice to be an invasion of privacy.
Younger search users aged 18 to 29, as well as African-Americans and Hispanics, tend to view targeted search practices more favorably when compared with white search users. Search users in households with income less than $30,000 annually are also more likely than higher income search users to say the practice of personalizing search results based on collected information about users is a good thing.
However, there were actually very few demographic differences in how online adults feel about this issue, and those differences were fairly modest, noted Purcell in a Friday email. "So while we did see some differences in young online adults, black and Hispanic online adults and low income online adults compared with others, overall we found a lot of consistency in search users' views," Purcell explained.
Targeted Ads Viewed Negatively
Overall, 59 percent of Pew's survey respondents said they have noticed receiving targeted ads, with 68 percent having an unfavorable view of targeted advertising. Only 28 percent viewed targeted ads favorably because the practice allows them to receive information about the products and services that they are interested in.
"Younger Internet users and those in the lowest-income households are more likely than others to view the practice favorably," Purcell, Brenner and Rainie wrote. "Yet, even among those groups, almost six in ten say they are not okay with targeted ads because they do not like having their online behavior tracked and analyzed."
Just 38 percent of the Pew survey's respondents said they were aware of ways to limit how much personal information Web sites can collect about them.