Information Technology Risks as Seen by the Public


Lennart Sjöberg Stockholm School of Economics, Center for Risk Research, Stockholm, Sweden


Risks related to information technology (IT) are becoming a focus of concern in current risk debates. The use of IT is rapidly spreading in the population, as is access to computers in general. The present article reviews the literature on IT use (especially electronic mail and various Internet applications) and the related risks. In addition, the results from a survey about IT use and risk perception, given to a random sample of the Swedish population, are reported. In general, participants were quite positive to IT and were, to some extent, aware of the related risks. However, risks of IT were mostly seen as pertinent to other people, a finding in contrast with other results on perceived technology hazards. The attitude toward the use of IT was strongly related to general attitude toward computers, and less clearly to risk perception. Only a small percentage of the respondents reported having had negative experiences with IT hazards such as Internet addiction, depression, and social isolation. When extrapolated to the general population, however, these small percentages amount to large groups in the population that have been negatively affected by IT use.