Joelith's Journal

AOL Abhorrence

Thursday 10th August, 2006

AOL recently released 20 million search queries from users of their system. They attempted to protect the privacy of people by removing their screen names but the search queries have allowed some people to be identified. The data itself is quite valuable for research, something which AOL should be commended for. But since people can be identified this was one big cock-up. AOL has removed the links but the data lives on thanks to bittorrent.

Some of the data is quite scary. One user repeatedly searched for ways to kill his wife! We are entering Minority Report territory here but should someone be locked up because they were merely searching the net for this stuff?

My favourite piece of data I have found is this one -

(query with times)
how do you know if you are gay 2006-03-20 09:27:34 1
how do you know if you are gay 2006-03-20 09:27:34 2
pink screensavers 2006-05-07 14:23:10 1
purple screensavers 2006-05-07 14:25:10 4
purple screensavers 2006-05-07 14:25:10 2
pink desktops designs 2006-05-07 14:30:10 3
pink desktops designs 2006-05-07 14:30:10 9

Speaks for itself really.

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