AOL just released the logs of all searches done by 500,000 of their users over the course of three months earlier this year. That means that if you happened to be randomly chosen as one of these users, everything you searched for from March to May (2006) is now public information on the internet.

This was not a leak – it was intentional.
In their desperation to gain recognition from the research community, AOL decided they would compromise their integrity to provide a data set that might become often-cited in research papers: “Please reference the following publication when using this collection…” is the message before the download.

This is a blatant violation of users’ privacy.
The data is “anonymized”, which to AOL means that each screenname was replaced with a unique number. “It is still a research question how much information needs to be anonymized to protect users,” says Abdur from AOL. Here are some examples of what you can find in the data:

AOL Releases Search Logs from 500,000 Users

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