Public Perception of Private Information on Search Engines


Tara Whalen
Carrie Gates

Author Addresses: 

Faculty of Computer Science
Dalhousie University
6050 University Ave.
PO Box 15000
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
B3H 4R2



The principal strength of search engines is that they enable people to retrieve information easily. This power, however, represents a threat to privacy. Personal information, such as home addresses and membership in organizations, can be easily retrieved by individuals all over the globe. This has caused widespread concern among citizens and privacy organizations alike. Google has stated that it is not willing to censor information, but wants the internet community to decide whether or not certain types of data should be made public. To help inform this debate, we are conducting a study on public perception of private information available through search engines. In particular, we focus on how people perceive certain types of information, and on its temporal nature. This paper presents the results from a pilot study designed to spark interest in the issues, and to inform the construction of future work in this area.

Tech Report Number: 
Report Date: 
January 25, 2005
PDF icon CS-2005-01.pdf204.56 KB