The ethics of using AOL search data

Like one of the forest fires that each summer consumes a major chunk of California real estate, the AOL data release scandal has quickly exploded from a campfire into an inferno. Giving the search history of 650,000 users to researchers seemed like a good idea when Abdur Chowdhury first posted it, but the move quickly claimed Dr. Chowdhury's job, as well as that of a supervisor. Maureen Govern, the company's CTO, also resigned the same day.

Now the flames of controversy have spread into academia, where researchers desperately want to use the new data set but feel caught in an ethical dilemma. Given that AOL has already pulled the data, and given that it can be used to uniquely identify some individuals, should researchers refuse to use the data for their work? The ethics of using AOL search data

Linked by shanmuga Thursday, 24th August 2006 10:10PM