» Privacy concerns complicate using search results to target marketing efforts

Privacy concerns complicate using search results to target marketing efforts

April 5, 2012 by Charlie Walker
Posted in: In this week's e-newsletter - Sales & Marketing, Latest News & Views - Sales & Marketing, online marketing, Technology

Internet travelers, do you want someone tracking every move you make and using that info to target you with tailor-made suggestions for future destinations?

That’s what’s happening to many users who search the Internet, whether they’re aware of it or not.

It’s a logical target for market research. Search engine use ranks second, behind email, as the most-popular online activity.

And it makes sense that the people behind the search engines find it appealing and cost-effective to collect personal information on Internet users and use that information to target specific advertising to those people.

But does that make it right?

That’s a critical question right now: Is accessing and using this information, often collected without the user’s knowledge an invasion of privacy?

A lot of people say it is.

And participants in a recent survey from Pew Internet & American Life Project emphatically agree.

When asked about search engines:

  • 23% of those surveyed said it was OK for a search engine to keep track of their searches and use that data to personalize the results — even if it means they are gathering information about you, and
  • 73% said it would be an invasion of their privacy if the information collected from tracking their search results was used to personalize any searches they make in the future.

Taking it a step further:

  • 68% of the people surveyed objected to targeted advertising based on their Internet use, and
  • 28% said it was OK, because it meant they would see advertising information they really cared to know more about.

Overall, people have high confidence in the efficiency of search engines when it comes to finding information they really need.

Percentages reflecting faith in the capability of search engines:

  • 91% said they always or most of the time find what they’re looking for
  • 73% believed the information they find is accurate and trustworthy
  • 66% said they’re a fair and unbiased source of information
  • 52% said the quality of the results they find are improving (only 4% disagreed), and
  • 52% believed the results have grown more useful (7% argue that the results are less relevant).
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