Searching Questions

I’ve talked
before
how easy it can be to use supposedly anonymous search data to find out who actually made the
search. This is in relation to government requests/requirements
that search engines such as Google must turn over such
anonymous data to the government. The allegation was that the search
data was anonymous and no one could or would be identified.

In this
article
, it appears that an AOL researcher released three months worth of AOL subscriber
search queries for academic research purposes. This amounted to 20
million searches from more than 650,000 AOL customers. Although numbers
were substituted for customer’s names, it is always possible to use the
search terms to link back to the names of the people who made the
searches, which was exactly what was done.

Although the release was an intentional one, intended for academic purposes, it is clear that many
people do not understand the ease in which search engine data can be
misused. Be clear, I am not saying no research can or should be done.
However, everyone must understand and take appropriate action to keep
private information, private.

Aloha!

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