Portait of AOL Search as a Young, Strange, Man

This research paper, authored by the same people listed as authors in the AOL data’s README, reveals what AOL had hoped for people to do with the data.

They wanted their users examined in aggregate. Look at all the dot graphs and charts. Watch the pretty gradient map of America. Revel in the statistical analysis. Wallow in the private made public.

Previously, the DOJ asked all the major search engines for a swath of their data. Everyone complied (except for Google). Now AOL released the info to the public, with the intent of attracting profit. Not to mention the handy benefit of, “getting others to figure out their metrics for them for free,” says Vinny.

AOL: We don’t give a fuck.

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  1. It redoubles the instensity of the question “What was AOL thinking?” The research paper was written by data-mining specialists, who (to be redundant) are specialists in data-mining. Surely (right?) they would know that aggregated search data made public could potentially be tied to a specific person, thereby bypassing the anonymization of usernames, thereby leaving AOL open to lawsuits over gross violations of privacy.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The research team is just a good bunch of guys who didn’t realize how exploitable this information could be if released anywhere outside the company.

    …naaaah. If they cared at all about the privacy of their users they’d have sabotaged this data and deleted it from the AOL servers before they even used it themselves.