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Company AOL TimeWarner [Company Info]
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Date Issue Title
8th Aug 2006 Other Issue AOL apology for search data error

Internet giant AOL has apologised for releasing the search queries of more than 650,000 of its US subscribers.

The company admitted the release to researchers was "a screw up" and had breached the privacy of its users.

AOL said it was an "innocent attempt to reach out to the academic community with research tools".

Although users' names were not associated with the search terms, fears were raised that the queries may contain personally identifiable data.

It is not clear which researchers were given the data and how they intended to use it.

The AOL search data was posted about 10 days ago but was not widely known outside the research community until blogs began pointing to AOL's research site on Sunday.

AOL removed the file, but not before copies were already circulating on the internet.

The data file had information on 19 million queries and included information on what search terms were used, when the search was conducted and whether the user clicked on any of the results.

"We're angry and upset about it," AOL spokesman Andrew Weinstein said.

He said that AOL should have vetted the data before releasing it.

Ari Schwartz, deputy director of the technology watchdog group Center for Democracy and Technology, praised AOL for responding quickly.

"We're glad to hear that AOL is treating this as a serious incident because it is a serious incident," he told the Associated Press news agency.

Other Reports on AOL TimeWarner
Date Issue Company Report
27th May 2006 Fraud Investigation AOL TimeWarner Time Warner, Ernst to Settle Fraud Suit
24th Aug 2005 Questionable Practice AOL TimeWarner AOL pays out after Spitzer probe
3rd Aug 2005 Questionable Practice AOL TimeWarner Time Warner to Pay $2.4 Billion for AOL Suit
10th Jan 2005 Fraud Investigation AOL TimeWarner Ex-AOL staff face criminal charge
15th Dec 2004 Fraud Investigation AOL TimeWarner Time Warner fraud charge settled
20th Jun 2003 Questionable Practice AOL TimeWarner Excessive Spending

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