Skip to main content

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).


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

RIP Tom Petty

Tom Petty died today, aged 66. I won't claim to be a huge Tom Petty fan, but I've bought an album or two and sang along in the car to one of those songs everyone knows. I'll  stream a lot of his catalog today to remember the songs I've heard once or hundreds of times.

I also owe Petty credit for a singular moment in my life, and one I never expected to last in my mind.

Nearly 20 years ago, I was a fresh-ish faced transplant to Ann Arbor, MI by way of my first "real job" out of college, working for a software company in Dexter. I was renting a house with some other folks who'd also been displaced as a result of a fire at my first apartment. I was the only family member East of Lansing, which made me a contact point for anyone going through Detroit Metro airport.

Which is how my uncle Dean came to spend a few hours with me one evening. At the time, my grandparents (his parents) were wintering in Texas. My grandfather had health problems most of his life and…

Google Inbox: A classic Google product

My work domain (an EDU) recently had Google Inbox enabled so I had a good chance to try it out. My personal email is relatively quiet and, I believe, doesn't provide a good Inbox experience. Work is more active and requires actual management, something I've tossed many a tool at over the years. As part of my work life, I supported the Google Apps for EDU installation here and took a pretty extensive presentation to campus about how to manage large amounts of email.

Inbox is a classic Google product: the distillation of a number of excellent ideas into a set of half-complete features built for a use case most people don't meet. We've seen this in the past in products like ChromeVox, Google's Chrome extension for accessibility. ChromeVox works great on ChromeOS devices, but completely ignores the point that most users of accessibility tech (AT) don't have or want ChromeOS devices and come to services with their AT in tow. ChromeVox also ignores decades of convent…


Evernote, for better or worse, is the best note-taking service for my needs. It works across all my devices/computers/modes. It's fairly easy to get stuff into it. Hell, they even have 2-Factor authentication. The Windows app is a little clunky and my girlfriend and I have never been able to get shared notes to work properly (conflicted note! three times in the same grocery trip!), but what service is perfect? At least they have nice socks.

Everything, in fact, is pretty good as long as you don't screw up. And screw up I did. I'm not very regular about making backups, but I do make them every month or so. Once you figure out how to create a backup, that is.

There's a helpful Export Note option (which turns into Export Notes when you select multiple notes HINT). The export process is essentially opening All Notes, selecting every note, and then choosing Export Notes. Or something like that; Evernote never tells you, you're left to figure it out on your own. The file…