It may offer users lots of free stuff and be pretty darned user-friendly, but AOL is soon likely to see both its users and its advertisers holding hands and skipping off to greener pastures, according to a Forbes article.
This week's news that the company compiled and posted a file of searches performed by AOL users over a three-month period is the kind of story that won't go away for a good long while. We're picturing AOL execs loosening their ties and settling in for some long, sweaty meetings.
The file was created for research purposes, and users were identified by serial numbers, not by name, but the contents of their searches make many of them identifiable. And the file was copied and mirrored before AOL realized its mistake, so marketers, law enforcement agencies and average curious Georges have full access.
Remember when AOL handed over search information to the Department of Justice (it wasn't alone) and the future of e-commerce was called into question? More than the 657,000 affected AOL users are waking up to the fact that the Net isn't anonymous and just because a company says it's protecting your privacy doesn't mean it will.