The major search engines are currently considering how to use the reams of demographic and psychographic data they're able to collect, but consumers might push back unless the search engines also address privacy concerns, search industry experts at Ad:Tech in New York said Monday. Panelist Martin Laetsch, Intel's manager of worldwide search, said that if major search engines collect consumers' personally identifiable data, consumers may lose trust in online marketing as a whole. "There is the potential for a huge backlash against the whole industry," he said. "Personally identifiable information scares people."

Although many companies have long gathered extensive data on their customers, the public at large only seemed to become aware of the issue with the rise of Internet marketing, said Laetsch and other panelists discussing the future of search. "When you put it online, they start to understand how much information is out there," he said.

Panelist John Battelle, author of "The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture," said that the key to assuaging customers' fear is to offer them transparency. "To get to the point where people are giving up this kind of information... we need to be able to see this information," he said. Battelle suggested that major search engines allow users to view their own demographic and psychographic data, and when they wish, to correct or even delete it.

Source: MediaPost Publications