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August 21, 2006

Fallout from AOL Data Release Part 2

The AOL data debacle has claimed three more victims, aside from the right to privacy, actual privacy, and the people who actually conducted the disclosed searches.  The researcher who released the data was fired, as was the researcher's supervisor.  Then there is, or was,the Chief Technology Officer, Maureen Govern, at AOL.  The company's statement on Ms. Govern was that she decided the leave the company "immediately," no doubt a good-will gesture on her part accepting responsibility for the leak. 

Additionally, AOL took measures to assess how long data should be retained for use, a touchy issue these days.  Companies have been squeamish about retaining data beyond business use, although have no problems with it when in specific cases involving law enforcement.  Attorney General Gonzales would like to see Internet providers hold onto to data indefinitely, as if the NSA sucking down Internet traffic courtesy of AT&T is not enough.  Business is opposed, if for no other reason, the amount of capital they would have to expend in storage systems on behalf of the government.  Bills have been introduced, but with elections looming, nothing is likely to be enacted until at least the next congress.  In the meantime, there's just so many dollars to be had in analyzing chunks of data for browsing and shopping habits. 

The moral of the story, just assume that anything people do on the web is ultimately not private.  And if it purports to be private, don't be the one to put it on the web unless you have a parachute made out of a precious metal.

The story is in CNET and CBS News.

August 21, 2006 | Permalink

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