Search engines must improve privacy image

A survey of internet users has revealed concerns over whether search engines can be trusted to keep the search behaviour of users private.

Almost third of users in the survey (30%) said they did not trust Google to ensure their search queries remained confidential, followed by 34% for Yahoo! and 39% for MSN.

The survey has been taken as an indicator that is still uncertainty amongst internet users as to the privacy policies of search engines, despite claims to the contrary.

The BigMouthMedia-backed survey found that 38% of users did trust Google to keep their search behaviour private, although trust levels fell away for Yahoo! (26%) and MSN (23%).

The digital marketing agency asked 1,100 internet users for the survey and has backed calls for search engines to become more proactive with reassuring consumers about the issue.

Head of search Andrew Girdwood said: “As someone who has heard Google’s comments on user privacy I might not know everything Google plans to do with the data it has on my search behaviour but I am confident it will be well intentioned. This survey highlights that outside of the industry, many people are still nervous about privacy – and this needs addressed by the search providers.”

Bill Slawski, of US agency SEO by the SEA, said: “There isn’t a privileged relationship between searchers and search engines, such as between a doctor and patient.

“Google’s privacy policy states that they will only use personal information to improve the services that they offer, but it’s really the force of public opinion that may keep them from revealing information that they might otherwise share with others.”

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