I have to agree with the Herd on this one: AOL screwed the pooch by releasing its actual search results. Even if the data is ‘anonymized’ (is that a new Web 2.0 word?), it shows a betrayal of confidentiality that’s going to end up costing the company big time. AOL is trying to paint itself as a newer, hipper company with its recent weblogger hirings, as well as monetizing (another new Web 2.0 word?) of linkers. This at a time when its customer service will eventually become a verb in modern dictionaries: to AOL a customer (i.e. argue with a customer, abuse the customer, not let them make legitimate changes in their account, and now, betray the customer’s confidentiality.)
There are ways to provide search term data that doesn’t rely on exposing actual search terms, many of which include names, phone numbers, and addresses (and other associated information in unrelated searches that could prove embarrassing). This is pure hype; attention grabbing stuff. Bad juju, may your CDs burn in hell, AOL behavior.
This site is where I first read the story (via Seth), and this is the site that seems to have broken the story. I wanted to give credit where it’s due, since certain A listing sites seem to think this is unnecessary.
(I’m pointing to Search Engine Watch’s post on the topic because of the last sentence in the post, related to a person’s reaction to the news: Want more wow. Though I don’t think we’re discussing the same thing, I want more wow, too.)
AOL has officially apologized.
Image of little boy, looking guilty as hell, one hand in grubby jeans, the other hand’s thumb tucked into the urchin’s mouth. He kicks his foot in the dirt, looks, down, cheeks turned red and mumbles, “I’m sowwy”. He then holds his arms up, wanting to be picked up and held, and told, “That’s OK, we still love you. Just don’t set fire to the cat again.”