Ethical concerns of search technology: search engine bias



Purpose – Search engines are a dominant part of our everyday activities and lives. These tools support decision-making, play a crucial role in constructing knowledge, and have a significant impact on our individual and social behaviour. The paper is aimed at the search engine bias problem as one of the important ethical issues associated with search technology algorithmic design and development.

Design/Methodology/Approach – Conceptual analytical method and critical approach are applied to a problem of search engine bias. Based on analysis, typology of specific problems and solutions are summarized and characterized. ANT (actor-network theory) (Latour, 2005) was used to introduce model consisting of search engine bias problem actors present in a complex bidirectional relations.

Results – The focus of this conceptual article is mainly on search engine bias in connection with manipulation techniques such as SEO (search engine optimization) methods and paid results. Problems of Google as a gatekeeper, personalization, and biased algorithmic design are also further analysed in more detail. As a result of the analysis, possible solutions to the search engine bias problem are categorized and discussed.

Originality/Value – This work provides new insights into search engine bias problem in the context of recent technological development and trends. The current methods, principles, and frameworks as a solution to the ethical issues of search engine technology are summarized.

Keywords: search engines, search engine bias, ethical issues, SEO, paid results, personalization, algorithmic design and development

Biografie autora

Mirka Pastierová

Comenius University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Library and Information Science

She is a research assistant at the Department of Library and Information Science, Faculty of Arts, Comenius University, Bratislava, Slovakia. Her current research interests are focused mainly on information search, search technology, human-computer interaction, and cognitive science. In her teaching she concentrates on HCI, information retrieval, information organization, and SEO. She has participated in various research projects focusing on information behaviour, human-agent interaction, and educational technology. Currently, she is a part of research team dealing with a topic of ethical challenges of digital information revolution.

Dept. of Library and Information Science, Faculty of Arts, Comenius University Bratislava, Gondova 2, 818 01 Bratislava, Slovakia


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