Search Engines Used to Find Self, Others

The Internet has spawned a population of private investigators, as a Harris Interactive poll conducted for Microsoft found that surfers use search engines to find information about themselves or someone they know.

Amongst the popular search topics such as travel, health, entertainment, current events, news, and weather, are searches for friends, acquaintances, spouses, romantic interests, colleagues, bosses, and clients. The propensity to search for one’s self or others differs according to gender, age and geographic location.

Of the 2,231 U.S. respondents, the survey found that more respondents were apt to search for friends than they were for themselves. Nearly half (49 percent) searched for a friend, or a long-lost friend or acquaintance, compared to 39 percent who have looked for themselves, and 29 percent who conducted searches for family members.


How Women and Men Use
Search Engines to Find People
Women Men
Self 35% 43%
Family member 30% 29%
Friend 48% 50%
Romantic Involvement 26% 29%
Someone from work 11% 19%
Other 6% 8%
None 40% 33%
Base: Female =1,181; Male =1,050)
Source: Harris Interactive/Microsoft

Generation X respondents (28 to 39-years old) were more likely to conduct searches for themselves or others than any other age group, while mature adults (59+) were least likely.

Half of the respondents from Seattle reported searching for themselves, while only 39 percent of Los Angeles survey participants admitted to entering their names into a search engine. Los Angeles emerged as the leader among those who searched for someone from work.

Chicago residents were more apt to search for family members (35 percent) than the survey participants in Seattle (33 percent), New York (31 percent), Los Angeles (29 percent), Atlanta (29 percent), and Denver (23 percent). Chicago also led for searches regarding romantic involvements.

When Internet users were not searching for themselves, friends, family or acquaintances, many were looking for celebrities. The Harris Interactive/MSN survey found that Britney Spears, Kobe Bryant, Jennifer Lopez, Anna Kournikova, and Vin Diesel were the most searched for entertainment figures. Women added “Madonna” and “Brad Pitt” to their list of celebrity searches, while men included “Paris Hilton” and “Alyssa Milano”.

The Lycos 50 compilation of the most popular search terms since the rankings began in August 1999 included Lopez and Spears, while also adding Pamela Anderson. “Howard Stern” led the Lycos list for the fourth consecutive year as the most popular talk radio personality.

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