Search Engine Usage and Result Quality

  • Internet Usage

In a collaboration between researchers at Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy and Mozilla, this study examines the search engine market and how individuals interact with search engines. During the enrollment process, you will receive more information about the study and you will be asked for your consent to participate.

The study will run until December 31, 2022.

Goals of the Study

The motivation for this research is to understand how users interact with and make choices about search engines. Understanding the search engine marketplace will inform competition policy, promoting a diverse digital ecosystem that benefits users.

What the Study Will Collect:

  • Your responses to survey questions, including the Rally demographics survey.
  • How you use search engines and information about the search engine result pages that you navigate. For example, we may collect that you ran a search in a topic category, how the search results were organized on the page, and whether you clicked any results.
  • How often you used search engines prior to joining the study, going back up to 30 days in your browser’s history.
  • If we prompt you to consider your choice of search engine, how you interact with that prompt.
  • How popular online services appear in your search results. These services are specified in a predefined list, and include categories such as mapping, shopping, and travel.
  • Your interactions with these same online services, including whether you make a purchase.

If you would like further detail about the data collected in this study, you can access the complete software implementation of the study here.

How the Study May Affect: Your Browsing Experience

During the duration of the study:

  • The study may prompt you to consider your choice of search engine in your browser settings. You will remain free to select any search engine of your choice. For more information, see Change your default search settings in Firefox.
  • The study may minimize or omit search results that highlight a search engine’s own services or a direct answer from a third-party source. You will remain free to select any online service of your choice, and the study will not alter any ordinary (“organic”) search results or search engine advertising. Any such alterations will stop at the end of the study or upon your withdrawal from the study.

How We Protect You:

  • We will not collect the URLs or content of webpages that you visit.
  • We will not collect search engine queries or the content of search engine result pages.
  • We will limit data collection to a predefined list of search engines and a predefined list of popular online services in the following categories: business recommendations, lyrics, shopping, travel, and weather. You can access the complete list of services here.
  • We will not collect any data when you are in private browsing mode.
  • We will not share data sent to Mozilla’s server with any third parties.
  • We will use a secure analysis environment for all study data aggregation and analysis.
  • If you leave the study, the study’s browser extension will be automatically uninstalled, removing the study code and data from your browser.
  • We will end data collection for this study no later than December 31, 2022.
  • We will discard participant-level study data no later than June 30, 2023.

We are committed to data minimization as a design principle in all of our studies. This means we only try to collect exactly what is required to support our study goals, and nothing more.

Supporting You

Princeton University logo

The Princeton Institutional Review Board (IRB) has reviewed this study to ensure that the appropriate steps have been taken to protect the rights of research participants. Contact the IRB for more information.

Protocol No. 14343

About our Collaborator

Princeton University Center for Information Technology Policy

Princeton University‘s Center for Information Technology Policy (CITP) is an interdisciplinary center that sits between technology, engineering, public policy, and social sciences on campus. As a component of Princeton University, CITP‘s work is subject to the standards established by the Princeton Institutional Review Board for academic integrity.

For more information, please contact:

Jonathan Mayer
Principal Investigator

Ready to Rally?

The internet should be used to benefit all, not just some. With your help, we can create a safer, more transparent, and more equitable internet that protects people, not Big Tech.