Group files complaint against AOL

18 Aug 2006

A civil liberties group accused AOL of breaking a promise to protect its subscribers' privacy when AOL recently released millions of Internet search requests, including data that touched upon everything from Social Security numbers to murder plots.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a Federal Trade Commission complaint, a week after AOL apologized for posting about 19 million search requests made by about 658,000 subscribers during a three-month period ending in May.
The files containing the search requests were publicly accessible for 10 days before AOL finally removed the information, giving people plenty of time to fetch copies that continue to circulate on the Internet.
In its complaint, the foundation asserts the AOL breach was serious enough to merit an FTC investigation in hopes of winning an order that would require AOL to provide more details about the gaffe.
The San Francisco-based foundation also wants FTC to order AOL to notify all subscribers whose search requests were revealed and pay for a year's protection from a credit monitoring service.
The complaint alleges AOL's unauthorized release of the information, which included creepy search requests like 'how to kill your wife,' represents an unfair or deceptive trade practice.
The foundation said the released material also included 175 searches containing Social Security numbers, which can provide a stepping stone to identity theft.
AOL declined to comment.

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