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AOL - "There is not a whole lot we can do."

AOL recently released the search records of thousands of "anonymized" users. Except, user 4417749 was pretty easy to track down. She's a 62-year old from Georgia and the New York Times tracked her down and interviewed her.

AOL's response? "There is not a whole lot we can do." Stunning. Thanks, AOL, for proving once again that you don't get it. Of course there's nothing you can do because you should have done anything in the first place. Why, in the name of all that's holy, did you post that information in the first place?

As some in the article point out, now we can talk about the long-term aspects of the breaching someone privacy like this and the boundaries of where our data can and can't go.  It's a long overdue converstation. Too bad we had to drag the search habits of a grandmother into the street in order for us to talk about it.
New York Times article


  1. Cmon search proxies have been around for a while.

    Just like the people still on AOL who cant deal with the internet. Non techies need to deal with the greater realitie and start using prxies that have been available for years.

    heres a free and really good one just for search.

  2. Please, you seriously expect Joe and Jane Websurfer to immediately change their web habits and use some, you have to admit, obscure technological solution to mask their activities online? "Google" has become a verb, for Pete's sake; people are not going to start "blackboxing" anytime soon.

    Using proxies, while effective, is much like every spam solution that comes down the pike. It requires huge shifts in the habits of large numbers of people all at the same time to be truly effective. These are unreasonable and unworkable solutions.

    What needs to happen is the pace of AOL cancellations should increase dramatically in the wake of an event like this. Market movement, more than anything, gets the attention of service providers. If people stop using the service because of shady practices, those practices tend to go away (see AOL's former retention policy).


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