AOL's disturbing glimpse into users' lives

Release of three-month search histories of about 650,000 users provides rare glimpse into their private lives.

AOL's publication of the search histories of more than 650,000 of its users has yielded more than just one of the year's bigger privacy scandals.

The 21 million search queries also have exposed an innumerable number of life stories ranging from the mundane to the illicit and bizarre.

For its part, AOL has apologized for a researcher's disclosure of the massive database and has yanked the file from its Web site. It was too late: The database already had been mirrored.

That database does not include names or user identities. Instead, it lists only a unique ID number for each user. What that means is that it's possible to view the search terms that users of a single account typed in while using AOL Search during a three-month period. (Google, Yahoo, and MSN Search aren't included.)

From that massive list of search terms, for instance, it's possible to guess that AOL user 710794 is an overweight golfer, owner of a 1986 Porsche 944 and 1998 Cadillac SLS, and a fan of the University of Tennessee Volunteers Men's Basketball team. The same user, 710794, is interested in the Cherokee County School District in Canton, Ga., and has looked up the Suwanee Sports Academy in Suwanee, Ga., which caters to local youth, and the Youth Basketball of America's Georgia affiliate.

That's pretty normal. What's not is that user 710794 also regularly searches for "lolitas," a term commonly used to describe photographs and videos of minors who are nude or engaged in sexual acts.

The following are a series of excerpts compiled by CNET from the AOL search logs, with each user's search terms included in chronological order.

AOL user 311045 apparently owns a Scion XB automobile in need of new brake pads that is in the process of being upgraded with performance oil filters. User 311045, possibly a Florida resident, is preoccupied with another topic as well:
how to change brake pads on scion xb
2005 us open cup florida state champions
how to get revenge on a ex
how to get revenge on a ex girlfriend
how to get revenge on a friend who f---ed you over
replacement bumper for scion xb
florida department of law enforcement
crime stoppers florida

Based on the number of local searches, AOL user 1515830 appears to be a resident of Ohio's Mahoning County. On March 1, user 1515830 was trying to find the amount of calories in chai tea and bananas. But on March 9, the searches took a darker turn:
chai tea calories
calories in bananas
aftermath of incest
how to tell your family you're a victim of incest
pottery barn
surgical help for depression
oakland raiders comforter set
can you adopt after a suicide attempt
who is not allowed to adopt
i hate men
medication to enhance female desire
jobs in denver colorado
teaching positions in denver colorado
how long will the swelling last after my tummy tuck
divorce laws in ohio
free remote keyloggers
baked macaroni and cheese with sour cream
how to deal with anger
teaching jobs with the denver school system
marriage counseling tips
anti psychotic drugs

Revenge is a common theme, though of course it's impossible to guess whether an AOL user has criminal intent or is in the middle of writing a true-crime novel. In the case of AOL user 17556639, the jury's still out:
how to kill your wife
pictures of dead people
photo of dead people
car crash photo

Some AOL users seem to be worried that an abusive partner in a relationship may come back to hurt them. This person, AOL user 005315, searched for information about prison inmates, gang members, sociopaths in relationships, and women who were murdered in southern California last year:
resources for utility bill paying assistance in southern california
section 8 housing southern california
los angeles county ca. gang member pictures
orange county california jails inmate information
fractured ankle
letters and responses written by women to emotionally
abusive partners
men that use emotional and physical abandonment to control their partner
warning signs of a mans infidelity or sexual addiction
the sociopathic relationship
southern california newspaper stories about woman murdered by boyfriend in pomona december2005
names of females murdered or found dead in pomona california in 2005
characteristics of a sociopath in a relationship
a person that shows lack of empathy
help in writing a letter to a abusive narcissistic ex boyfriend
how to hurt the narcissistic man
retaliating against the narcisisstic man

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