Government Surveillance and Internet Search Behavior
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Management Science (MS)
August 28, 2014
This paper uses data from Google Trends on the search volume of search terms from before and after the surveillance revelations of June 2013 for eleven countries to analyze whether Google users' search behavior changed as a result. The surveillance revelations are treated as an exogenous shock in information about how closely users' internet searches were being monitored by the US government. Each search term was independently rated for its degree of privacy sensitivity along multiple dimensions. Using panel data, our results suggest that cross-nationally, users were less likely to search using search terms that they believed might get them in trouble with the US government. In the US, this was the main subset of search terms that were affected. However, internationally there was also a drop in traffic for search terms that were rated as personally sensitive. These results suggest that there is a potential for chilling effects on search behavior from government surveillance on the Internet. This also suggest that government surveillance programs may affect the international competitiveness of internet firms.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 34
Keywords: surveillance, Snowden, prism, chilling effects, international trade
JEL Classification: D12, D78, E65, F14, H56, M38
Date posted: March 23, 2014 ; Last revised: August 29, 2014
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