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More Web users are Googling themselves

December 17, 2007|From the Associated Press

NEW YORK — More Americans are Googling themselves -- and many are checking out their friends, co-workers and romantic interests too.

In a report Sunday, the Pew Internet and American Life Project said 47% of U.S. adult Internet users surveyed last year had looked for information about themselves through Google or another search engine.

That is more than twice the 22% of users who did in 2002, but Pew senior research specialist Mary Madden was surprised the growth wasn't higher.

"Yes, it's doubled, but it's still the case that there's a big chunk of Internet users who have never done this simple act of plugging their name with search engines," she said. "Certainly awareness has increased, but I don't know it's necessarily kept pace with the amount of content we post about ourselves or what others post about us."

About 60% of Internet users said they weren't worried about the extent of information about them online, despite increasing concern over how that data can be used.

Americans younger than 50 and those with more education and income were more likely to self-Google -- in some cases because their jobs demanded a certain online persona.

Meanwhile, Pew found that 53% of adult Internet users admitted to looking up information about someone else, celebrities excluded.

Although men and women equally searched for online information about themselves, women were slightly more likely to look up information about someone they were dating.

In many cases, the search was innocuous, done to find contact information. But a third of those who had conducted searches on others looked for public records, such as bankruptcies and divorce proceedings. A similar number searched for someone else's photo.

Few Internet users said they Googled themselves regularly. And most considered what they found accurate. Only 4% of Internet users said embarrassing or inaccurate information online resulted in a bad experience.

Pew also found that teens were more likely than adults to restrict who could see their profiles at an online hangout like Facebook or News Corp.'s MySpace, contrary to conventional wisdom.

The telephone survey of 1,623 Internet users was conducted between Nov. 30 and Dec. 30 last year and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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