Three AOL workers depart over privacy breach - East Valley Tribune: Business

Three AOL workers depart over privacy breach

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Posted: Monday, August 21, 2006 1:52 pm | Updated: 2:34 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

NEW YORK - Two AOL employees were fired and its chief technology officer has left the company following a privacy breach in which the Internet search terms of more than 650,000 subscribers were publicly released.

Maureen Govern, the technology chief, will be replaced on an interim basis by John McKinley, who had held that position before becoming AOL's president for digital services. The change takes effect immediately, according to a memo AOL Chief Executive Jonathan Miller sent to employees on Monday.

The researcher who released the data and that employee's direct supervisor were fired, said one person familiar with the company's decisions. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because release of personnel information was not authorized, would not say whether Govern's departure was voluntary.

AOL, a unit of Time Warner Inc., admitted earlier this month that it had made a mistake in releasing three months' worth of search terms. Although AOL had substituted numeric IDs for the subscribers' real user names, the company acknowledged the search queries themselves may contain personally identifiable data.

At least two groups have asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate. In its complaint, filed last week, the Electronic Frontier Foundation accused AOL of breaking a promise to protect its subscribers' privacy.

In a separate memo, Miller outlined a four-part plan to "help ensure this type of incident never happens again." The measures include the creation of a task force to review privacy and data retention policies and the evaluation of technologies designed to flag sensitive information.

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