AOL Apologizes For Releasing Keyword Searches As Research Tool

In the midst of its reshaping campaign, AOL is getting attention for the wrong reasons. An effort to provide data to the research community backfired badly when word got out that the company had released 20 million keyword searchs. The data didn’t include direct user info but was clustered by searches to anonymized numbers; the searches included personal information such as names and addresses. The material was up for more than a week before a post about how useful the material could be for researchers led to another post about privacy implications and all hell started to break loose Sunday. Hours later the material was removed but not before it was downloaded numerous times.
AOL: “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.”