A Face Is Exposed for AOL Searcher No. 4417749
Buried in a list of 20 million Web search queries collected by AOL and recently released on the Internet is user No. 4417749. The number was assigned by the company to protect the searcher's anonymity, but it was not much of a shield....It did not take much investigating to follow that data trail to Thelma Arnold, a 62 year old widow who lives in Lilburn, Ga., frequently researches her friends' medical ailments and loves her three dogs. "Those are my searches," she said, after a reporter read part of the list to her.
AOL removed the search data from its site over the weekend and apologized for its release, saying it was an unauthorized move by a team that had hoped it would benefit academic researchers.
But the detailed records of searches conducted by Ms. Arnold and 657,000 other Americans, copies of which continue to circulate online, underscore how much people unintentionally reveal about themselves when they use search engines — and how risky it can be for companies like AOL, Google and Yahoo to compile such data. A Face Is Exposed for AOL Searcher No. 4417749 - New York Times
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