"Is Googling Risky? A Study on Risk Perception and Experiences of Adverse Consequences in Web Search"

Search engines, such as Google, have a considerable impact on society. Therefore, undesirable consequences, such as retrieving incorrect search results, pose a risk to users. Although previous research has reported the adverse outcomes of web search, little is known about how search engine users evaluate those outcomes. In this study, we show which aspects of web search are perceived as risky using a sample (N = 3884) representative of the German Internet population. We found that many participants are often concerned with adverse consequences immediately appearing on the search engine result page. For example, 45.2% of respondents are concerned about retrieving incorrect information. In contrast, consequences with a delayed impact are rarely perceived as a risk. Moreover, participants’ experiences with adverse consequences are directly related to their risk perception. Our results demonstrate that people perceive risks related to web search. In addition to our study, there is a need for more independent research on the possible detrimental outcomes of web search to monitor and mitigate risks. Apart from risks for individuals, search engines with a massive number of users have an extraordinary impact on society; therefore, the acceptable risks of web search should be discussed.


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Author: Charles W. Bailey, Jr.

Charles W. Bailey, Jr.