AOL ‘s $658 Million Privacy Breach? (27B Stroke 6)

In a possible massive violation of federal privacy law, America Online released the logs of nearly 20 million web searches documenting three months of activity by 650,000 AOL users on Sunday ten days ago in an effort to share data with the search research community.

Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Kevin Bankston considers the publication of the pseudonymized search logs to be a violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, arguing that the search terms are content under federal law and that the law doesn’t distinguish between identifiable and non-identifiable communications.

That law carries a minimum statutory damages of $1000 per person, which, if Bankston is right, would put AOL on the hook for $658 million minimum, even if it didn’t violate its own privacy policy. (more…)