UnNews:AOL Discloses Searches Of All Two Subscribers
8 August 2006
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NEW YORK, NY -- Internet service provider AOL got slammed by privacy rights advocates today for releasing the search terms of both of its subscribers today. The once prominent company has suffered a steady stream of cancellations in the past few years, and analysts say this latest incident is just more grim news.
Despite the fact that AOL used randomly assigned numeric IDs instead of the customers' real names in the report, clever hackers and identity thieves could be able to decipher them. The specific data released includes all of the two users' search queries, which security expert John Obvious claims may contain individual names, social security numbers, and favorite porn movie titles.
Brenda Jones, wife of AOL subscriber Cletus Jones, suspects that the numeric ID "2", may in fact correspond to her husband. "I dang axed him last week to buy me a new hoe for upkeeping our vegetable garden and what not, so Cletus went on them there internets to find one." The search report on "Customer #2" does in fact include 15 queries for "hoes." But AOL spokesman Andrew Weinstein contends that "Customer #1" also searched for "hoe", albeit only 12 times. "He preferred the keyword 'whore,'" added Weinstein.
Meanwhile, the other AOL subscriber, Randall "Dimebag" Madison, was furious over AOL's conduct. "I don't want the feds knowing that I searched for 'finest Colombian crack' - hell, I even put some fellow dealers' names in that search box; I would be a dead man if they find out." After a short pause, Madison added, "You're not gonna quote me on that, right?"
AOL is deeply apologetic for its actions, and has promised to win back its customers' trust. "We're even sending them CDs with 420 free hours of access to our newest network 'AOL Version 9.127 - Optimum Spyware'" revealed a spokesperson. AOL founder Steve Case said that he "Personally cares about all our customers - regardless of whether they are back country hicks like Cletus Jones, I mean, anonymous user #2, oops, I mean, nevermind... or drug-dealing shady gentlemen like Mr. 'Dimebag' Madison."
But for the Jones family this was the last straw, and Cletus decided to call and cancel the service. As of this writing, he is still on hold with customer service. But news of his upcoming cancellation spread quickly, causing AOL stock to drop 60% in after-hours trading on Monday. According to financial expert John Obvious, "Shareholders are going to experience negative long-term effects from the loss of half of AOL's customer base."
Leading search engine giant Google scoffed at AOL's search disclosures, with company co-founder Sirgay Brin asserting, "We never reveal any personal information, unless it's to the Chinese government of course."
- Bogdan "Murky" Depths "AOL blows, no surprises there". CNET, August 8, 2006