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AOL Releases Search Logs of 657,427 Users

timothy posted more than 7 years ago | from the give-or-take dept.

346

An anonymous reader writes "AOL has released the search logs of over 650,000 users for research purposes. This looks like it may become a public relations disaster for AOL, as well as a privacy nightmare for the users involved as Michael Arrington of TechCrunch notes: "AOL has released very private data about its users without their permission. While the AOL username has been changed to a random ID number, the ability to analyze all searches by a single user will often lead people to easily determine who the user is, and what they are up to. The data includes personal names, addresses, social security numbers and everything else someone might type into a search box." This is also being covered on The Paradigm Shift and Oh My News." fantomas adds " Looks like they've just taken it down but it's still available on The Pirate Bay; not sure why but some of the academic researchers are going crazy musing the ethical aspects of letting the world know who's searching for how to kill their wives ..." Update: 08/07 21:32 GMT by T : amromousa writes "AOL is now apologizing for the release ..., calling it a "screw-up," which they're upset and angry about."

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346 comments

finally, maybe users will wake up (4, Insightful)

yagu (721525) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861317)

Finally, for all my support nightmares AOL users I know (and there are many!) that I endured over the years, a misstep that may offend and bother them as much as supporting AOL has bothered me for the last bazillion years. Go away AOL! (But, leave a few of your coasters at the store counters, those did come in kind of handy.)

So, all of that aside (the court of public opinion stipulates AOL as stupid and insensitive), how equally egregious and offensive is others would propogate and perpetuate this misguided release of data? Any mirrors still carrying this information (and they are there) serves few purposes for continuing to provide access, and none are defensible: either they are happy and willing to allow potentially embarassing or damaging data to continue to be distributed, or they are sticking it to AOL when AOL has already fallen on their own sword -- enough is enough. It's not okay.

(So, how many wives are either not going to be home tonight, or are going to fix hubby his very favorite dish?)

Re:finally, maybe users will wake up (4, Funny)

'nother poster (700681) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861365)

(So, how many wives are either not going to be home tonight, or are going to fix hubby his very favorite dish?)

I bet the guy works for Rockstar games and is simply researching their next big hit. "Slap the Ho!" Where you put up with yo biotches shit till...

Re:finally, maybe users will wake up (4, Funny)

Richy_T (111409) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861372)

Me too.

Re:finally, maybe users will wake up (4, Funny)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861400)

> (So, how many wives are either not going to be home tonight, or are going to fix hubby his very favorite dish?)

You keep making oblique references to steak and cheese [urbandictionary.com] . I do not think that phrase means what you think it means.

(If it's 17556639's favorite dish, maybe his wife is looking forward to death.)

Re:finally, maybe users will wake up (2, Informative)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861615)

Link probably not work safe.

And vaguely disturbing that it apparently happens enough to have an official slang term.

Re:finally, maybe users will wake up (4, Interesting)

Irish_Samurai (224931) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861518)

So, how many wives are either not going to be home tonight, or are going to fix hubby his very favorite dish?

You're probably just trying to be funny, but this could be a real problem. I know I have had some seriously bizarre search historys when doing research on possible articles to write in my lame ass vanity site. They could very easily be taken out of context and used to make me look like a sicko instead of a cynic who wanted some of the bizarre material that non fiction can provide.

Maybe this guy is doing some research on a book. Maybe he's an artist doing some death metal band's cover. Hell, maybe they have a socially retarded CS major for a dorm mate and are trying to freak them out.

It's the ridiculous release of this type of data and the sensationalist warping of these smallest elements that allow our privacy to get train wrecked.

Damn (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15861325)

Oh crap. And I just used my search engine to find Slashdot.

Re:Damn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15861666)

Double crap. I used a search engine to see if anyone was already working on my project before trying to patent it...

Searching for SSN's?? (4, Interesting)

StarvingSE (875139) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861326)

personal names, addresses, social security numbers and everything else someone might type into a search box.

Who in their right mind would type their social security number in a search box, in plain text??? I mean, really???

Re:Searching for SSN's?? (5, Funny)

RonnyJ (651856) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861338)

AOL users! ;)

Re:Searching for SSN's?? (1)

BigCheese (47608) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861557)

It's modded funny 'cause it's true.

Re:Searching for SSN's?? (2, Insightful)

Pulse_Instance (698417) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861359)

Keep in mind that this is an AOL search box the lowest common denominator of internet users. They probably still find Hampster dance funny.

Re:Searching for SSN's?? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15861470)

But I thought AOL was the Internet? Now I'm confused..

Re:Searching for SSN's?? (2, Funny)

Donut2099 (153459) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861729)

No, the internet is a series of tubes. AOL is a dumptruck.

Re:Searching for SSN's?? (3, Insightful)

jamsessionjay (802511) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861383)

What makes you think someone is searching for their own SSN?
Isn't it possible someone is searching for information on someone else? Checking to see if someone has listed their SSN else-where would help to narrow the scope of targets for data theives.

But yeah, you're probably right. Someone probably searched for their SSN to see if anybody who had taken it would use it somewhere in plain text, and assumed that the information they were passing to their trusted ISP was secure. Hah, imagine that, trusting a company to not release your private information without a warrent?

Re:Searching for SSN's?? (4, Insightful)

cbr2702 (750255) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861406)

Who in their right mind would type their social security number in a search box, in plain text??? I mean, really???

Maybe they want to be sure no one's posted it anywhere?

Re:Searching for SSN's?? (5, Insightful)

The Good Reverend (84440) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861410)

I have. I want to know if it's out there anywhere on the public internet. Same reason I search for my phone number, full name, etc.

Re:Searching for SSN's?? (4, Interesting)

radarsat1 (786772) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861414)


Who in their right mind would type their social security number in a search box, in plain text??? I mean, really???


Who in their right mind would give their SSN to AOL?
People really don't understand these issues.. I've this to be true recently when an HR person at my university asked me to send my SSN to her over email. Also, a couple weeks ago I booked a room at a hostel over the internet, and apparently I mistyped my credit card information, so they asked me if I could to to them again over email. You know, I just said "No, I'll call you." But it just goes to show that most people just don't even think about privacy issues. Even professionals who should know about these things. They just don't. Either that or they don't understand the technical side of it... like that email is not encrypted, etc.

As for search engines, I've no idea why you'd be searching for one on Google, unless for instance you wanted to see if your own was available somewhere--Which is funny, now that I think about it. How can you search for your own online information (to see what is out there) without giving it away yourself by typing it into a search engine?

Re:Searching for SSN's?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15861579)

At work I got a call from someone who checked the memmorize password box for checking their email by accident. This upset them because they often sent and received email with "sensitive information". I sent them an email with directions on how to uncheck and told them that email was basically like sending a postcard.

I then recomended we use a different company for our accounting.

Re:Searching for SSN's?? (1)

AxemRed (755470) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861415)

Someone who wants to see if it's posted on the internet somewhere.

Re:Searching for SSN's?? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15861422)

It's a good way to find out if your SSN is being mismanaged by sloppy organizations.


I've read of someone who tried it only to find that a group/department at his college had is SSN# posted :-(; which he now fixed. My guess is that his identity is safer for ahving done this.


Of course, a partial SSN with a wildcard match might be a better idea.

Re:Searching for SSN's?? (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861591)

There was a short period when harris county, texas listed the voter registration cards online... which all had SSN's on them.

Re:Searching for SSN's?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15861499)

514 05 2874

Oh, oops... Posting as AC for obvious reasons.

Re:Searching for SSN's?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15861530)

Go Kansas!

Re:Searching for SSN's?? (4, Funny)

drix (4602) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861542)

Well, the thought never occured to me, but I just did it. If that number is publicly accessible on the web, I want to know about it.

Unfortunately, though, Google thought I was entering a subtraction problem. The answer was -966. Now go theft my ID :-)

Re:Searching for SSN's?? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15861730)

I assume you're joking, but giving that result will reduce the number of possible social security numbers to 100, given your place of birth (the first three digits are determined by the location where your SSN was issued; it is likely somewhere you grew up). This leaves 100 possibilites for the inner two numbers. Instead of having 1000 possibilites for the remaining numbers, we only have the one that satisifies the subtraction.

Thought process: (1)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861612)

You have to understand: The average user doesnt comprehent that searching _for_ something actually sends this something into the internet.
He will think: "hm. Lets make sure nobody got my SSN in the internet. I will search for it, and if i dont get any hits, nobody has stolen it!" and believe it to be a good idea.

Re:Searching for SSN's?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15861640)

May be just to check whether it's already not somewhere on the web, i.e., it hasn't been already compromised.

Wow! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15861330)

That's a lot of pr0n logs!

Jesus vs Buddha - who'd win in a fight? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15861332)

I'm thinking Buddha's got the weight, and can probably roll with the punches, but Jesus is pretty strong for his size, what with carrying the cross, and he was no slouch while he was giving a beatdown to the bloodsucking Jewi$h moneylenders in the temple. Opinions?

Killing wives? (4, Insightful)

SoCalChris (573049) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861336)

Way to jump to conclusions. How do you know that they weren't working on a screenplay, or simply trying to find a phrase they heard mentioned somewhere?

If "End of the world" was searched for, how do you know if they are looking to the lyrics for an REM song, or trying to build a WMD?

Re:Killing wives? (1)

no_pets (881013) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861351)

Or, even "Bare Naked Ladies".

it's a geographic location! (5, Funny)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861354)

You insentive clod! The end of the world is a geographic location! Not everyone has been sold on the junk science of the round earth!

Re:it's a geographic location! (3, Interesting)

Man Eating Duck (534479) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861619)

Actually, it IS a geographic location in Norway :)

It is 1.5 hours drive from where I live, and a really beautiful place.

More info here. [norway.com]

Furthermore, I just searched for "End of the world" on google...

Re:Killing wives? (3, Informative)

a16 (783096) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861379)

Did you even read the link? Whoever this user was, he wasn't writing a play. And the point here is the possible implications of these logs being released in a place like America, whether this guy is planning on killing his wife, a sick freak, or having a joke - should the logs really be released for all to read and make their own minds up?

His last search history is as follows, if he is writing a screen play, I don't want to see it!
17556639 how to kill your wife
17556639 how to kill your wife
17556639 wife killer
17556639 how to kill a wife
17556639 poop
17556639 dead people
17556639 pictures of dead people
17556639 killed people
17556639 dead pictures
17556639 dead pictures
17556639 dead pictures
17556639 murder photo
17556639 steak and cheese
17556639 photo of death
17556639 photo of death
17556639 death
17556639 dead people photos
17556639 photo of dead people
17556639 www.murderdpeople.com
17556639 decapatated photos
17556639 decapatated photos
17556639 car crashes3
17556639 car crashes3
17556639 car crash photo

Re:Killing wives? (1)

bunions (970377) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861497)

I don't know why, but this just makes me giggle:

17556639 how to kill your wife
17556639 how to kill your wife
17556639 wife killer
17556639 how to kill a wife
17556639 poop
17556639 dead people
17556639 pictures of dead people
17556639 killed people
17556639 dead pictures
17556639 dead pictures
17556639 dead pictures ...


I just love the random poopsearch that pops up out of nowhere.

Re:Killing wives? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15861621)


It has to do with steak and cheese, but you might not want to look it up on UrbanDictionary...

Re:Killing wives? (1)

toleraen (831634) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861677)

That's no random search! Looks like he's looking at pictures related pictures so the shock of seeing the aftermath isn't as great.

And we all know what the last thing a person does before they die is...

Re:Killing wives? (2, Funny)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861608)

Steak and cheese!? This man is clearly going to commit murder then suicide via hardening of the arteries.

What if he's searching for a story (3, Insightful)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861727)

I hate to break it to you, but there are a ton of stories out there dealing with morbid topics. Either seriously (e.g., horror stories, a la Lovecraft or Edgar Alan Poe) or as a sort of dark/macabre humour.

And especially pay attention to the last alternative: there are a lot of stories and sites that are just supposed to be obviously humorous, not actually to be a DYI guide to the subject in their title. E.g., I think there was a humorous site somewhere titled something like "how to pick up underage girls", or something to that effect, and it wasn't actually a paedophile's field guide. E.g., take sites like the Evil Overlord's List, which are just a parody of common movie cliches, not actually a guide to be followed by someone. (Unless they're writing a story involving a stereotypical Evil Overlord.)

So how do you know if that guy didn't google for the title of such a story? Or for some random phrase he remembered from one?

E.g., I remember reading an absurdist play by Eugen Ionesco about some murderer who tempted people to come see the colonel's photo, and then pushed them into some lake. What if I googled for that? Remember, I don't know the title of the play any more, so I can't just google for that. Not that it would make it any better, because the title IIRC was something about an unpaid assassin.

The whole thing didn't even make much sense, other than maybe as a metaphor for something or another. It's an absurdist play, so don't ask me for what it was a metaphor. It contained such gems as the everyman hero asking a police officer something to the effect of "and didn't you send cops to get him?" and getting an answer like "yeah, but they too wanted to see the colonel's photo." Nowhere does it say what colonel or what's special about that photo. I guess it wouldn't be absurdist if it did.

So if I tried googling for that play on the net, would you use your amazing deductive powers to conclude that I'm looking for a hitmal willing to do some pro-bono work? Maybe to whack-off some colonel?

Re:Killing wives? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15861388)

Or maybe he just has a healthy wife-killing fetish going on that he would never dare act on. Thought crimes aren't here just yet, people.

Re:Killing wives? (0, Troll)

uglydog (944971) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861404)

If "End of the world" was searched for, how do you know if they are looking to the lyrics for an REM song, or trying to build a WMD?

Ummm... by cross referencing their ethnicity?

Re:Killing wives? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15861434)

Or looking for flash animation [ebaumsworld.com]

Re:Killing wives? (1)

JudgeFurious (455868) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861472)

I don't think we can afford to just assume that they were looking for the lyrics to an REM song. I think we have to assume they were trying to aquire or build WMD's and I think that means we have to destroy their entire country. They might have even been trying to download copyrighted material. The only way to be sure is to take em' out.

  The price of liberty is eternal vigilence. The price of not being "us" is apparently that odd invasion every now and again.

  In the immortal words of George W. Bush; "Sucks to be YOU! HA HA HA HAHAHAA HAH HAH HA!"

Obviously (1)

rsilvergun (571051) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861483)

you're not married.

Re:Killing wives? (2, Funny)

neo (4625) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861502)

Sure looks like lyrics to me.

17556639 how to kill your wife
17556639 how to kill your wife
17556639 wife killer
17556639 how to kill a wife
17556639 poop
17556639 dead people
17556639 pictures of dead people
17556639 killed people
17556639 dead pictures
17556639 dead pictures
17556639 dead pictures
17556639 murder photo
17556639 steak and cheese
17556639 photo of death
17556639 photo of death
17556639 death
17556639 dead people photos
17556639 photo of dead people
17556639 www.murderdpeople.com
17556639 decapatated photos
17556639 decapatated photos
17556639 car crashes3
17556639 car crashes3
17556639 car crash photo

Re:Killing wives? (2, Funny)

lymond01 (314120) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861582)

1-7-5-6, 6-3-ni-eee-ine!

Or the Jack Lemmon movie (1)

bw-sf (937673) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861519)

"Did you ever see that film 'How to Murder Your Wife'? Awfully good, I saw it six times" -- Basil Fawlty.

Re:Killing wives? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15861604)

Well, in this post 8/6 world you can't be too careful. Thinking about commiting a crime, even if it turns out to be a musing, must be taken seriously. The "inconvenience" suffered by the perpetrators of these heinous thought crimes, when they are thrown in jail and have their names dragged through the mud, is insignificant compared to the potential for loss of life.

I mean doesn't the act of actually searching for information about a crime indicate an intent? I'm sure if we give our police and government the tools they need to persecute... err i mean prosecute crime, then we can trust in nearly all cases they will do so appropriately and in the poli... err i mean public interest.

Wow (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15861339)

Since most people search for their own name, this really isn't very private. I imagine law enforcement may use this to track AOL users. I wonder what the legal implications are...

Eh, not always (1)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861613)

Think of all the stalkers googling the guy/gal they have a crush on, ex-girlfriends/ex-boyfriends obsessively googling for any evidence that their ex might have a life or (god forbid) a good time, or obsessive over-protecting parents googling their offspring daily. (Even when said offspring is in his mid-30's and living half a continent away.)

E.g., if someone assumed that the most googled name is their own, it would follow logically that mom's searches are mine. Since she's the stalker kind of parent who still doesn't want to let go. I _assume_ it would only link me to her interest in taking photos of squirrels, but, in the end, I just have to wonder what else. Does mom have some fetish I don't (want to) know about? Would it bite me in the ass at some job interview with some HR droid taking it out of context? E.g., if (just as a wild supposition) mom had also googled for sexy male actors, would some HR drone somewhere go "eew, he's gay, we don't want one of those in our team"?

For that matter how do you go about people obsessively tracking their signifficant other? God knows every other guy I know seems to love torturing himself with mental images of his wife/gf/secret-love-interest/whatever having wild gangbangs when he's not around. So how do you know if it's the wife googling for herself or the husband doing the google equivalent of prodding an aching tooth? Repeatedly.

And once you've done the connection, then what? There's a lot of stuff someone may google just for research or as a one-time morbid curiosity.

E.g., I know that at the peak of the COH inflation, where you could get a million just for taking part in a costume contest or just asking nicely or whatever, I just had to google for buying COH currency. Not because I needed any, but because it seemed like an incredibly stupid thing to do in an economy where money is _that_ abbundant. When someone told me that it happens, contrary to all common sense, I just had to check it out for myself. Yep, apparently some people were stupid enough to pay RL cash for it.

There's also stuff that that's basically one of those "you had to be there" thing, because it was a phrase taken out of context.

E.g., if I was googling for one of O Henry's stories, I might google for some random phrase I remember relating to scamming someone. (A good number of his stories are about that.) Would someone take that as indication that I intend to actually use such a scam?

So as I was saying, now what? Pass some judgment based on that association?

Just like the Bush Phone Tapping (-1, Offtopic)

neonprimetime (528653) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861355)

Again, no privacy rights are being violated here. For the Bush Phone Tapping, they just kept records of the incoming and outgoing phone numbers, looking for patterns. The contacts of the call weren't saved in the databases, so I don't really see the privacy issue. As for the AOL searches, the user id's as it mentioned are not saved, just random integers, so I don't see the privacy issue here either. Stop worrying about big brother looking over your shoulder.

Re:Just like the Bush Phone Tapping (1)

RonnyJ (651856) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861413)

In many cases, you can link a set of search queries to a person, since the queries often include personal information. Privacy is definitely being violated here.

Re:Just like the Bush Phone Tapping (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15861437)

Stop worrying about big brother looking over your shoulder.

Yes, stop worrying, Big Brother is watching. Don't worry, you'll be safe, as long as you don't think anything unacceptable.

Re:Just like the Bush Phone Tapping (3, Informative)

ironwill96 (736883) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861452)

No privacy issues? Just look at some of the data that you can link to a specific user ID over that 3 month period. It is not too hard to figure out who it is. As TFA points out, many people type in their own name to search engines to see if they show up anywhere on the internet. Tied with birth dates, horoscope searches, SS #'s etc, it is not too hard to figure out who a particular user is.

But wait, you were being sarcastic right?

Re:Just like the Bush Phone Tapping (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15861514)

so I don't really see the privacy issue

Then you're an idiot. The info itself can contain private info, and being linked by ID makes it much easier. Imagine this set of searches:
Susan Smith phone number
britney spears
Smallville high school
shoe store near smallville
Smallville abortion clinic
dr. joe jones

6 searches and already we can assume the user lives in smallville, is young, knows susan smith, and is looking for information on abortions.

Now, if instead of 6, we had every search for a month or two. How much more information about this "anonymous" user do you think we could find?

Hopefully Google takes note (5, Funny)

zibix (654122) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861357)

I hope that Google will now mark aol.com as an unsafe website to visit.

This just in (4, Interesting)

Klaidas (981300) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861363)

Company calls data posting a mistake. [com.com]
Hmm, I wonder if this "sorry" will be enough

Re:This just in (3, Funny)

neonprimetime (528653) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861397)

I like that how the first sentence of the article says these research logs were posted 10 days ago, yet still somehow it JUST reached the /. front page today :-)

PR disaster? O RLY? (1, Insightful)

cashman73 (855518) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861366)

This looks like it may become a public relations disaster for AOL,. . .

O RLY? Certainly, it's not the ONLY public relations disaster for the company! Isn't AOL synonymous with PR disasters nowadays? ;-)

Funniest thing so far (5, Interesting)

saskboy (600063) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861385)

A friend of mine downloaded this dataset.
A teacher's credit union employee was searching for sexy underwear, how best to conduct a relationship with a co-worker, and have sex in a pickup.
Just before that, she was searching for cars. And appears to have cancer as well, or lives with someone with cancer. Maybe it's her sick husband.

I wonder if that demonstrates why someone wouldn't want their Google searches or AOL info to make it into the public realm. AOL is obviously a bastion of consumer rights.

Re:Funniest thing so far (0, Flamebait)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861698)

You still don't know who that person is, so why does it matter.

Why were you ever under the delusion that aggrigate data about your searches would be kept private. You don't even have an implied right to privacy when you send un-encrypted data across the internet. Not only are people stupid if they're upset about this, they're stupid if they're surprised.

Calling this is a consumer rights issue is a joke. There are no rights involved here other than ones that people made up after the fact because they were irrationally upset.

Tracing back to a user (3, Interesting)

gstegman (988905) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861389)

It occurs to me that it would be pretty difficult to trace back to the user who is doing the searching by knowing what they are searching for. Sure I have Googled myself and have entered my address into Google Maps, Map Quest, etc. But I have Googled about a hundred other people and thousands of addresses. It would be an interesting game of what do all these things have in common for someone to triangulate all this information back to who I am. Granted I have never done a search on my or anyone elses Social Security Number, that's just asking for it.

Re:Tracing back to a user (3, Funny)

Speedcraver (868818) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861504)

I just traced all of your searches, I know who you are. You are Kevin Bacon!

Re:Tracing back to a user (1)

RonnyJ (651856) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861522)

The biggest problem for an 'average user' is if somebody has access to the data, and tries some searches for names, schools, etc. If they turn up results, it's very possible that they could identify somebody they know.

Re:Tracing back to a user (2, Informative)

thefirelane (586885) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861532)

But I have Googled about a hundred other people and thousands of addresses

988905: Brittney Spears
988905: Bill Clinton
988905: George Clinton
988905: George Clooney
988905: G. Stegman
988905: Mother Teresa


Guess!

Re:Tracing back to a user (1)

Unknown Poltroon (31628) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861659)

WEll, look at it this way, im pulling it down to do a search for my familys name, and then to run through any other random names that comes to mind. Once you have a name, then you can start tyring things togethere. Or maybe you just want to blackmail everyone who looked up "horsepron". You have a name, and maybe a general location, you can go to town. I think this is going to be a HUGE mess, and i think it will be much easier than you think to narrow it down to a specific name and user.

Re:Tracing back to a user (1)

eln (21727) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861668)

I find stalking can be much more effective if I stick to just stalking 2 or 3 people at a time.

get over it - there is no privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15861392)

There is no privacy! Get over it!

-Scott McNeally

The last nail in the coffin (4, Informative)

NightWulf (672561) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861395)

This is the last nail in the coffin for AOL I would say. This is a horrible invasion of privacy for people. Many people, myself included have probably searched for our own names, addresses, cities, credit card numbers, etc. I really hope that an attorney somewhere sues AOL into oblivion over this.

Some intresting tidbits:

17556639 how to kill your wife 17556639 how to kill your wife
17556639 wife killer 17556639 how to kill a wife
17556639 poop 17556639 dead people
17556639 pictures of dead people 17556639 killed people
17556639 dead pictures 17556639 dead pictures
17556639 dead pictures 17556639 murder photo
17556639 steak and cheese
17556639 photo of death 17556639 photo of death
17556639 death 17556639 dead people photos
17556639 photo of dead people 17556639 www.murderdpeople.com
17556639 decapatated photos 17556639 decapatated photos
17556639 car crashes3 17556639 car crashes3

160689 light brown colored semen 3/2/2006 16:30 9 http://experts.about.com/ [about.com]

6497dog eat monkey5/22/2006 5:39
6497dog eat monkey5/22/2006 5:39
6497capuchin monkey dog5/22/2006 5:39
6497dog eating monkey5/22/2006 5:40
6497dog eating monkey5/22/2006 5:40
6497dog eating monkey5/22/2006 5:40
6497dog eats monkey5/22/2006 5:40
6497dog eats monkey5/22/2006 5:41
6497eating capuchin monkey5/22/2006 5:41
6497eating capuchin monkey5/22/2006 5:41
6497eating capuchin monkey5/22/2006 5:41
6497kill capuchin monkey5/22/2006 5:41
6497killing capuchin monkey5/22/2006 5:41
6497slaughter capuchin monkey5/22/2006 5:42
6497feeding capuchin monkey5/22/2006 5:42
6497feeding capuchin monkey5/22/2006 5:42
6497eyes capuchin monkey5/22/2006 5:42
6497tail capuchin monkey5/22/2006 5:42
6497tail capuchin monkey5/22/2006 5:43
6497tail capuchin monkey5/22/2006 5:43

6497beach stud speedo5/23/2006 1:24
6497beach martin ricky5/23/2006 1:24
6497beach martin ricky5/23/2006 1:25
6497beach martin ricky5/23/2006 1:25
6497beach martin ricky5/23/2006 1:25
6497beach martin ricky5/23/2006 1:25
6497beach martin ricky5/23/2006 1:27
6497beach martin ricky5/23/2006 1:27
6497beach martin ricky5/23/2006 1:28
6497beach martin ricky5/23/2006 1:28
6497beach martin ricky5/23/2006 1:28
6497beach martin ricky5/23/2006 1:28
6497beach martin ricky5/23/2006 1:29
6497-5/23/2006 1:55
6497-5/23/2006 1:55
6497recent5/23/2006 1:55
6497speedo triathlete5/23/2006 1:55

3302children who have died from moms postpartum depression
3302children who have died from moms postpartum depression
3302rotovirus2006-03-24 19:55:12
3302statistics on infancide
3302statistics on infantcide
3302statistics on infanticie
3302statistics on infanticide postpartum depression
3302statistics on infanticide postpartum depression
3302statistics on infanticide postpartum depression
3302pictires of tom cruise and his wife
3302people magazines pictures of tom cruise and katie holmes

2652898my space.com (about 100 times)
2652898different ways to jerk of
2652898how to not ejaculate so early
2652898my penis has a big erection
2652898free videos of big dicks

Thanks to FARK.com for the snippits.

Re:The last nail in the coffin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15861672)

I think 3302 is just news items from that time period (resolution of crazy lady case in Texas). Not sure why it's interesting except to note that people will read a news item and search for related materials.

How did the data get out? (1)

Bromskloss (750445) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861416)

Was it by mistake, or did someone request it?

Re:How did the data get out? (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861478)

It was a deliberate statistics set release by AOL meant to be used in studies.

New data just released (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15861417)

657,437 searches for "how to cancel AOL"

Re:New data just released (1)

ak3ldama (554026) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861488)

yes! haha, mod parent up please.

Here's another interesting one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15861431)

03012003 linux source code
03012003 frivolous law suit
03012003 shady lawyers
03012003 companies that hate linux
03012003 secret funding

Download Data here (0, Troll)

Snake98 (911863) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861432)

The piratebay link is dead, here is one from mininova, http://www.mininova.org/tor/388815 [mininova.org]

Child Porn (5, Insightful)

db32 (862117) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861443)

Ahh...great...maybe I can expect a call from authorities if Google ever caves. I got one of those stupid ICQ Child Porn spams one day and started googling for reporting agencies. Not that I think it would do much good, but hey...I would rather have reported it and have it do nothing than to not have reported it and have no chance of it doing anything.

In Soviet....err...In America the government watches you! Ahh...how the times have changed...Working on losing the 1st Ammendment and 4th Ammendment in 8 years. As Thomas Jefferson said "The beauty of the 2nd Ammendment is that you don't need it until the government tries to take it away"... I recently had a picture taken of my baby girl at the National Archives with those 3 terribly important documents honestly wondering if they will mean anything or even exist by the time she is old enough to show her kids the picture.

But hey...may just be me being a pessimist...so maybe the spooks won't get up and arms datamining slashdot and seeing my TJ quote and come interrogate me for being a terrorist...just in case...

Last post!

Finally! (1)

bcmm (768152) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861444)

Read the data. Finally, conclusive proof that AOL users are stupid.

Nice Try #17556639 (1)

jeblucas (560748) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861445)

Well, looks like we can match one "random number" to someone.

The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

AOL is sorry... they got caught. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15861455)

*******Update***** Monday July 7th 10 AM PST AOL Officially comments in the comments section below.

Andrew Weinstein

All -

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.

Here was what was mistakenly released:

* Search data for roughly 658,000 anonymized users over a three month period from March to May.

* There was no personally identifiable data provided by AOL with those records, but search queries themselves can sometimes include such information.

* According to comScore Media Metrix, the AOL search network had 42.7 million unique visitors in May, so the total data set covered roughly 1.5% of May search users.

* Roughly 20 million search records over that period, so the data included roughly 1/3 of one percent of the total searches conducted through the AOL network over that period.

* The searches included as part of this data only included U.S. searches conducted within the AOL client software.

Our apologies again.

Andrew Weinstein AOL Spokesperson

Data mining such things is silly (1)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861469)

The sheer number of false positives makes this data useless; you'd waste so much police time following false leads that you'll be unable to use it on better methods that give back useful leads. There are dozens to hundreds or reasons to search for such things that are perfectly harmless (random curiosity, research, interest in the morbid, etc.). And the act of searching shows neither a desire to do something nor is it illegal in itself. I've searched for a lot of things that may look odd if taken out of context and without knowing the reason for it, and we should have the right to do so without scrutiny. If I want to know how to make EM weapons or how a suitcase nuke works out of sheer curiosity then I shouldn't fear the police knocking on my door.

It's akin to saying that if you play a violent video game (say one of the more realistic ones) you are a psychopath and must be investigated for potential murder.

Pirate Bay Link Broken (1)

barik (160226) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861473)

The Pirate Bay link is broken and the feed is no longer available from the site.

Re:Pirate Bay Link Broken (1)

barik (160226) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861548)

Well, it looks like the torrent is still available through MiniNova: http://www.mininova.org/tor/388815 [mininova.org]

14 download mirrors + BitTorrent link to the file (5, Informative)

russiste (180524) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861476)

The file is available here:

http://www.gregsadetsky.com/aol-data/ [gregsadetsky.com]

There are 14 mirrors listed there. They have all been added after this first mirror went live less than 20 hours ago.

I have already transferred 863Gb of data in that short period of time.

Seriously? (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15861493)

The data was sent out anonymously. It had noones name attached to it. What is the big f'in deal?

I'm all for being gun ho about our rights and protecting our privacy, but this was 100% anonymous and was meant to be used for research purposes. I guess I just don't see what the big hoopla is..

Re:Seriously? (2, Insightful)

Manchot (847225) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861710)

People often search for their own names. Even if they don't, it can often be incredibly easy to narrow down who a person is. For example, I often search on my university's web page. I'm sure it would be obvious to anyone who looked at my search records to surmise that if I'm searching for an academic calendar at my college's web page, I probably go here. From there, it would be easy to guess that since I often search for "EE," I'm probably in the electrical engineering department.

User 17556639 (5, Funny)

aquatone282 (905179) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861527)

FTA:

17556639 how to kill your wife
17556639 how to kill your wife
17556639 wife killer
17556639 how to kill a wife
17556639 poop
17556639 dead people
17556639 pictures of dead people
17556639 killed people
17556639 dead pictures
17556639 dead pictures
17556639 dead pictures
17556639 murder photo
17556639 steak and cheese
17556639 photo of death
17556639 photo of death
17556639 death
17556639 dead people photos
17556639 photo of dead people
17556639 www.murderdpeople.com
17556639 decapatated photos
17556639 decapatated photos
17556639 car crashes3
17556639 car crashes3
17556639 car crash photo

Mmmmmm. . . Steak and cheese. . .

Re:User 17556639 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15861570)

Steak and cheese is a website for freaks like user 17556639 and the occassional office moron.

Well...you ARE an AOL user... (0, Flamebait)

bigdavesmith (928732) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861549)

I'm sorry, but if you're still using AOL at this point, you deserve whatever crazy coked-up junk they throw at you.

And how can you determine who a user is with their search info? I mean, who searches for themselves, or puts in their own information? And these are AOL users... Most likely these read as ['huge tits and dicks', 'free smileys','screensavers and cursor fun',...].

Haha (1)

drix (4602) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861569)

Not to make too much light of a really scary situation, but... the kill your wife guy searched 3 times for it and didn't come across this [killmywife.com] the first two?! What an idiot!

Identifying some users is easier than others (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15861590)

13455621 how to fucking bury someone
13455621 funky gibbon
13455621 chair repairs seattle
13455621 addams family
13455621 OSS cancer
13455621 FUD spreading

Huh? (1)

Runefox (905204) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861603)

Social Security numbers are common AOL searches? What? Why would anyone type their SSN into an AOL search?

Oh wait.

Uh, oh... (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861606)

I guess last week was a bad time to be signing up for an AIM account.

What is the big deal? (1)

LinuxFreakus (613194) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861644)

I wasn't the one who posted that data, but I'm personally familiar with the situation. I know the type of data that was used, we analyze it all the time. I'm telling you, unless you already had personal knowlege of the person you were looking for, or you were searching for your own searches that you remember doing, there is no way you'd have a real chance to use this data for much of anything. Just a bunch of bloggers looking to make something out of nothing so they can get attention.

Competing with Google's 1 Trillion keywords ? (1)

cpatil (955342) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861693)

I had submitted a story to slashdot - which is still pending. Google to open 1 trillion words at LDC in a 6 pack [blogspot.com] Monday August 07, @08:36AM Pending Was AOL provoked by Google's action ? LOL

This is silly (2, Insightful)

fjf33 (890896) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861712)

" Looks like they've just taken it down but it's still available on The Pirate Bay; not sure why but some of the academic researchers are going crazy musing the ethical aspects of letting the world know who's searching for how to kill their wives ..."

Because of the presumption that your are not breaking the law? We all have things to hide. Some don't even break the law but could be bad if they were out there. Presumably this guy hasn't killed his wife either. If there was a dead wife and her husband was a suspect, it should not be a problem to get the household computer IP search history from AOL. It is even legal.

Should we investigate anyone that talks about killing someone. We all say that in jest from time to time.

This is the same stupidity behind the automated listening to conversations. It generates too many false positives and it wastes investigator time. Gods know we don't need more fuzzy leads for possible crimes. There are many ACTUAL crimes out there that need investigating.

Maybe you won't object to a camera in every room of your house? After all you are not guilty of anything are you?

There is no privacy (1)

Ogemaniac (841129) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861726)

Especially on the internet. Don't even bother to try. The world is too interconnected now, and there is no going back.

Learn to live with this reality. Your life will be easier.

Start by not doing things that will get you in trouble. Follow up by not doing things that are embarrassing, or not getting embarrassed in the first place. Remember - 95% of men admit to being chronic masturbators. Coincidentally, five percent have been scientifically determined to be chronic liars.
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