AOL members sue over posted search data

News by Frank Washkuch Jr.

Three AOL users who had their search information mistakenly posted to a public site this summer have sued the web giant.

Three AOL users who had their search information mistakenly posted to a public site this summer have sued the web giant.

The two unidentified California residents and Kassadore Ramkissoon, a resident of Staten Island, N.Y., sued AOL for unspecified monetary damages for all AOL members in the U.S. whose search data was disclosed without consent since the beginning of 2004. The suit seeks to stop AOL from collecting search information.

Filed by the firm Berman, DeValerio, Pease, Tabacco, Burt and Pucillo, the suit claims AOL violated California's Online Privacy Act of 2003 and other state statutes.

AOL had no comment on the lawsuit, which was filed in California's Northern U.S. District Court, according to a company spokesperson reached today.

Last month, CTO Maureen Govern left the company after the internet giant mistakenly posted the search queries of 650,000 subscribers. She was replaced by John McKinley, who was the company's CTO before taking over as president of its digital services unit.

The leaked data damaged AOL users despite the fact that it did not contain user names, the plaintiffs contend.

"While no user names were attached to the member search data, the search queries themselves contain information that identify AOL members who made each search," according to the plaintiff's preliminary statement. "Further, the search queries provide an intimate look into what these Americans search for on the web, and compromise the privacy consumers are entitled to by federal and state law when they use search engines."

Since the breach, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy watchdog group, has asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the incident and demanded that AOL improve its privacy policies.

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