Google Inc. has turned its dominant position in Internet search into a gold mine. The company's Internet search engine is the hub of an advertising system that generated $36.5 billion in revenue last year up from $3 billion in 2004.
But the Pew findings also indicate Google may be risking its popularity by trying to learn more about users in a quest to sell more advertising.
Nearly three-fourths of search engine users said they don't want search engines to sift through their personal information to deliver results tailored to their individual interests. Google has been doing this more frequently since January when its search engine began to include personal information pulled from Google's social networking service, Plus.
More than two-thirds said they don't want to be targeted by customized ads because they don't want their Web surfing activities to be tracked and analyzed.
Google might be vulnerable to a backlash if its major rivals, including Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Facebook Inc., didn't also collect personal information to help them aim their ads at the right audiences.
Like its rivals, Google believes a well-placed ad is appreciated by most Web surfers.
Google and its rivals say they offer a variety of tools to protect their privacy, including ways to erase their search histories. But only 38 percent of Internet users are aware of these privacy-protection options, Pew found.