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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

AOL Employees Fired Over Data Leak

Ouch. The AOL developer who posted the search logs online recently was fired, Elinor Mills reports. So was his supervisor. And AOL’s chief technology officer resigned. (“The fish starts stinking from the head,” as we say in Germany.)

AOL seems to be taking this seriously and now creates a privacy task force, and ponders restricting access to certain databases. And they should. The data leak more than anything showed not the screw up of a single person or two, but a lack of systematic privacy protection.

Some people (like Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, or Jason Calacanis of Weblogs Inc/ AOL) now argue AOL should move forward and not even keep their search logs. But if that’s the only approach to maintaining privacy, we might as well forgot about moving applications online (think of services like Gmail, Gdrive, Google Calendar etc.).
Deleting this kind of data would have a privacy bonus though; the gov’t couldn’t successfully subpoena for private data anymore. As it is, the digital equivalent of burning a paper containing information seems to be missing... even when you do as little as save an email in draft mode to then delete it, who’s to say the webmailer won’t save the mail for the next couple of decades?

[Thanks Missy and Pd.]


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