I Just Called To Say I'm Sorry (For Exposing Your Personal Search Data)

from the I-just-called-to-say-that-I-still-care dept

Earlier this week, AOL exhibited a stunning lapse of judgment when it released search data from 500,000 of its subscribers. While the company thought the data had been sufficiently anonymized, the New York Times had no problem tracking down and interviewing one of the AOL searchers. There's no way AOL can close the Pandora's Box of data at this point, but after the Times story ran, AOL's CEO Jon Miller did feel compelled to call the woman and apologize. But why stop there? AOL didn't need the Times to identify which searchers had their privacy breached. It knows which user number corresponds to which user. Admittedly, it might be too much to ask of Jon Miller to call each one of them personally, but the company just announced it's laying off 5,000 employees within six months. Certainly, that's plenty of time for each one to call about 100 people and say sorry.
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  1. identicon
    Tony Angelo, 11 Aug 2006 @ 1:14pm

    Math Check

    Certainly, that's plenty of time for each one to call about 1,000 people and say sorry.

    Actually, they would only need to call 100 people.

    5,000 (employees being layed off) / 500,000 (user's search records) = 100 (Phone calls)

    Unless the numbers were misquoted in the post above.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Joe, 11 Aug 2006 @ 1:17pm

    Re: Math Check

    ooh, you're right.

    Thanks!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Kilroy, 11 Aug 2006 @ 1:36pm

    ...and while they're at it

    They might be able to get some leads on new jobs. Network Network Network!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Sanguine Dream, 11 Aug 2006 @ 1:39pm

    I know

    If were one of the 5000 layoffs and had to make those 100 calls I'd be asking about job oppunities at the same time.

    This whole data leak thing is getting out of hand these days. But I wonder is it happening more often or was it this bad before and it just wasn't being reported.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Hautedawg, 11 Aug 2006 @ 2:00pm

    Laying 5000 ????

    Did you mean laying OFF 5000, or actually the laying of 5000? If they will broadcast this, I'll switch to AOL today!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Dee, 11 Aug 2006 @ 2:04pm

    Data privacy

    I think the leaks of data are just not starting to come out. No company would ever openly admit to such breeches of data and most would go out of their way to cover it up or dismiss it completely. Pandora's box is open wide on this one already no telling who has what data on whom at this point just sitting on hard drives waiting to be mined for info.

    This is why credit ratings and such will no longer be a valid tool to determine anything with since the odds are going to be as likely the info is wrong as much as it is right. At this point though I think those with lousy credit ratings should be feeling pretty safe. Not like someone can run up a lot of debt in your name if your name doesn't even qualify for anything to begin with. LOL

    Oh and remember this is now the United States of Corporate America and they will have their bought and paid for politicians help them cover their arses you can bet the house on that!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    totoro, 11 Aug 2006 @ 2:09pm

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Aug 2006 @ 2:27pm

    Re: Data privacy

    ...this is now the United States of Corporate America...

    Now? When wasn't it? How long ago was AT&T nailed for anti-trust and broken up? Hrm... Sorry to break it to you but things haven't changed much. We simply have more access to more forms of media and therefore hear more about what has been going on for generations.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Ben, 11 Aug 2006 @ 2:30pm

    typo joe

    Laying "of" 5,000?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    kerry, 11 Aug 2006 @ 2:31pm

    927

    huh,
    I thought people like 927 got arrested....

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    kerry, 11 Aug 2006 @ 2:31pm

    927

    huh,
    I thought people like 927 got arrested....

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Flangie, 11 Aug 2006 @ 2:37pm

    Math Check Take 2

    Tsk Tsk Tsk AOL.
    ------------------------------------------

    And, actually... 5000/500,000 = .01
    (not 100, or 1000).

    But we all know what you meant.
    I'm just obnoxious enough to point it out.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Matt, 11 Aug 2006 @ 2:59pm

    Great PR move

    Certainly, that's plenty of time for each one to call about 100 people and say sorry

    Right...because I can't think of a better PR move than to have the 5,000 employees you're about to whack start calling customers on an apologetic PR campaign. I imagine the doomed employees would be more than eager to represent the company in a positive light.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Aug 2006 @ 3:07pm

    Hmm, mass corporate apologies. I wonder how long it will take to outsource those. Imagine getting a call from some guy in India who apologizes for something on behalf of your local ISP.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Kevin Murphy, 11 Aug 2006 @ 3:48pm

    That's What I'd Want to Do

    If I was getting laid off in six months, that's how I'd want to spend it -- calling customers who in all likelihood already hate my company, tell them we published all their private searches on the internet, then apologise. Good idea.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Helsturm, 11 Aug 2006 @ 4:26pm

    Heh..

    I'd be more worried about one of those 5,000 taking AOL's hashing algorithim they used to "anonymize" the usernames.

    Of course, this *is* AOL...it's probably not a algorithim...it's just a list posted in the employee breakroom.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    lil'bit, 11 Aug 2006 @ 5:52pm

    "No company would ever openly admit to such breeches of data and most would go out of their way to cover it up or dismiss it completely."

    It wasn't until I saw news reports, after I received one of the infamous ChoicePoint letters in August 2004, that I learned the ONLY reason I had been informed was due to California law. The only reason it was on the news was because of letter recipients calling the news services.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    blackhawk, 12 Aug 2006 @ 6:39am

    Subscribers?

    WOW

    AOL still has 500,000 subscribers??!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Aug 2006 @ 11:42am

    Re: Subscribers?

    WOW

    I've been waiting a week to be the first to post that comment!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    jsaltz, 12 Aug 2006 @ 3:12pm

    This is an abomination, indeed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Araemo, 14 Aug 2006 @ 6:02am

    Calling the users..

    Actually, don't be so sure that AOL knows who each # is from, or even which particular searchers they exposed the records of.

    If they actually thought they were releasing 'sanitized' information, they may have done a randomized select to pull 500,000 users, in random order, and give them numbers in increasing order... To make it so that not even AOL employees could 'abuse' the data.

    Granted, they were completely wrong on that last part, but they might have been honestly trying.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    cepx@mail.com, 10 Oct 2006 @ 6:02am

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    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    jbolgn@mail.com, 10 Oct 2006 @ 6:05am

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    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
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    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. identicon
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    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. identicon
    dcfmhwjla@mail.com, 10 Oct 2006 @ 11:20am

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    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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