Ok, let’s get the laughter out of the way now: I am an AOL customer.
>pausing for derisive laughter, catcalls, hoots, and, hollers<
The good news is all I use them for is a mail service. My daughter uses their kids services and my wife and my father sometimes reads their news articles, but thanks to broadband their usefulness to me as an ISP is long over.
So, thankfully, none of my family was caught by AOL’s release of potentially private information a week or so ago; at least not that I could detect. I’ve downloaded the database and combed through it every way I know how and I’m confident that we are safe. Not like I used their crappy search engine anyway but I had to check for the rest of the family.
But can anyone tell me what in holy hell did AOL think they would accomplish? Their reputation is already in the toilet thanks to Gestapo-esque customer service, poor browser tools, and a sad inability to stop charging customers who DIED. Did someone fantasize that releasing “research” data would give them credibility? The sad and transparent apology shows how seriously AOL miscalculated the public backlash.
My guess is that AOL was toying with the idea of giving all their search data to the US government and wanted to do a dry run. But that’s just my distrust talking; I can’t prove anything.
This breech of trust between AOL and its customers has the potential to be disastrous to both. The amount of personal data contained in that database is shocking, even with the “anonymous ID’s” that AOL so helpfully provided.
Hopefully this escapade will leave a lasting impression on people about internet privacy and safety; on the World Wide Web there is no such thing as true privacy and you cannot trust a giant corporation to keep you or your information safe. Ever. For any reason. A giant corporations sole purpose is to collect data on you and sell it to the highest bidder. Every single one of us are nothing more than chips in a giant corporate profit game.
To wrap this up let me offer a few pieces of advice based on what is in this data from AOL:
- Never put your social security number in a search engine.
- Never put your credit card number in a search engine.
- Never put your address in a search engine.
- If you must search your own name, don’t do it very often.
- If you must search your own zip, don’t do it very often.
- If you must search your own town, don’t do it very often.
- Do NOT search both your child’s name AND school!!
- And FOR CHRISTS SAKE DON’T USE AOL’S SEARCH ENGINE EVER!!!
Google is the only search engine that refused to hand your data over to the government so, if you must do any of the above, use Google; but don’t ever assume that they are safe or private. If someone offers them enough money they will sell you out just as fast as any other big company and they will be counting their pennies and laughing while you lose your money and your identity.