Search engines have in their databases a vast amount of information about consumers. And that data is very appealing to all sorts of people, from researchers to marketers to the government.
That's why bloggers were in an uproar over the weekend after a research arm of AOL released a massive database of user queries--three months worth of search terms from 500,000 of the company's users. The goal was to provide a data set for search engine researchers.
The data was anonymized, and did not mention and specific users by name. And it appears AOL took the data down after complaints began flowing. But the very fact of its availability had privacy advocates enraged.
Blog community response:
"AOL is in damage control mode - the fact that they took the data down shows that someone there had the sense to realize how destructive this was, but it is also an admission of wrongdoing of sorts. Either way, the data is now out there for anyone that wants to use (or abuse) it."
"AOL, you betrayed your users. If they are any smart, they will boycott your services."
"If you searched for something on AOL this year, you might want to think about what keywords you used and which links you clicked on."