by CIO Staff

AOL Could Face FTC Probe Over Search-Record Disclosure

Aug 15, 20062 mins

AOL’s recent release of millions of Web search records online has led the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), an Internet civil liberties group, to file a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) complaint in hopes of sparking a federal probe into what the group says was a breach of the Web giant’s promise to protect its users’ privacy, the Associated Press reports via

The EFF filed its complaint against Time Warner’s Internet division on Monday, accusing it of participating in unfair or deceptive trade practices, one week after the company apologized for leaking the results of 19 million searches made by more than 650,000 subscribers between February and May of this year, according to the AP.

AOL kept the search results posted for nearly a week and a half before removing them, enabling people to save their own copies of the information and potentially circulate them over the Web, the AP reports.

The EFF filed its 11-page complaint in hopes of instigating an FTC probe that will force AOL to disclose additional information about the incident, as well as notify all parties potentially affected and provide a year’s worth of free credit monitoring, according to the AP.

The civil liberties group said in its filing that AOL released 175 search records that included Social Security numbers, the AP reports, which could lead to identity theft.

AOL spokesman Adam Weinstein would not comment specifically on the EFF complaint. However, he did say the company does not have a list of all potentially affected people because individuals were represented by numbers within the search results it released, according to the AP. Weinstein admitted that in some cases, a person’s identity could be determined from information provided within the search results, the AP reports.

The FTC did not tell the AP whether it plans to open an investigation.

The World Privacy Forum, a consumer rights entity, will file a similar FTC complaint against AOL next week, Pam Dixon, the group’s executive director, told the AP.

Related Links:

  • AOL Releases Data on Web Searches

  • Google: AOL Breach Wouldn’t Happen at Our Co.

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