AOL Releases Customer Search Keywords

Posted on August 10, 2006

In a serious breach of customer privacy AOL has released tons of customer data onto the Internet. AOL has since apologized for the release of the three month long customer search histories.

AOL said in a statement, "This was a screw-up, and we're angry and upset about it. It was an innocent enough attempt to reach out to the academic community with new research tools, but it was obviously not appropriately vetted, and if it had been, it would have been stopped in an instant. Although there was no personally identifiable data linked to these accounts, we're absolutely not defending this. It was a mistake, and we apologize. We've launched an internal investigation into what happened, and we are taking steps to ensure that this type of thing never happens again."

Searches were anonymized with a number to replace the customer's username but identifiable information remains. The data has already led to the identification of at least one AOL customer. Let's hope this doesn't result in too many more people being identified. In the future, no search engine should ever release non-aggregated data like this again.

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