To what degree can log data profile a web searcher?



In this paper, we report ongoing efforts in a large scale research project to develop methods for profiling individual Web search engine users by leveraging data recorded in the transaction logs of search engines. Our research aim is to investigate how completely one can profile a Web searcher using log data. Taking a broad brush approach, we present an array of profiling attributes to illustrate the spectrum of user characteristics possible from log data. Specifically, we present ongoing research for determining a user 's location, geographical interest, topic of interest, level of interest, the degree of commercial intent, whether the user plans to make a purchase, and whether the user will click a link. We present the state of our ongoing research in user profiling along with that of other researchers. Our findings show that one can develop a fairly robust profile of a Web searcher using log data. We also discuss issues of determining the specific identity of the user. We conclude with a discussion of the implications for the areas of system development, online advertising, privacy, and policies concerning the use of such profiling.