Government Surveillance and Internet Search Behavior
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Management Science (MS)
March 24, 2014
This paper uses data from Google Trends on search terms from before and after the surveillance revelations of June 2013 to analyze whether Google users' search behavior shifted as a result of an exogenous shock in information about how closely their internet searches were being monitored by the U. S. government. We use data from Google Trends on search volume for 282 search terms across eleven different countries. These search terms were independently rated for their degree of privacy-sensitivity along multiple dimensions. Using panel data, our result suggest that cross-nationally, users were less likely to search using search terms that they believed might get them in trouble with the U. S. government. In the U. S., 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 have implications for policy makers in terms of understanding the actual effects on search behavior of disclosures relating to the scale of government surveillance on the Internet and their potential effects on international competitiveness.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 39
Keywords: surveillance, Snowden, prism, chilling effects, international trade
JEL Classification: D12, D78, E65, F14, H56, M38working papers series
Date posted: March 23, 2014 ; Last revised: March 25, 2014
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