Search engine users disapprove of data collection: survey

WASHINGTON Fri Mar 9, 2012 2:16pm EST

1 of 2. The homepages of Baidu and Google are seen on a computer screen in this illustration photo April 29, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Bobby Yip

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Search engines users disapprove of personal data being collected for search results or for targeted advertising, according to a Pew survey released on Friday that underscored the public's growing concern with web privacy.

The survey results come after Internet search company Google said in January it was simplifying its privacy policy and would pool data on users across its services, including YouTube and Gmail.

Users cannot opt out of the new policy. It has generated scrutiny from European and Brazilian regulators.

The Pew Internet & American Life survey showed that 65 percent of users said it was a bad thing if a search engine collected information about searches and then used it to rank future search results. They worried it could limit information users get online and what search results they saw.

An even larger 73 percent said they would not be okay with a search engine keeping track of searches and personalizing future search results because it would be an invasion of privacy.

Just 38 percent of Internet users said they were aware of how they could limit information about them that is collected by a website.

Google Inc. is by far the most popular search engine, with 83 percent of search users saying they used it most often. Yahoo Inc. trailed at 6 percent, the survey found.

The survey was conducted from January 20 to February 19 among 2,253 adults age 18 and over, including 901 cell phone interviews. The margin of error for the full sample is plus or minus 2 percentage points.

(Reporting By Ian Simpson; Editing by Paul Thomasch)

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