Welcome to WebmasterWorld Guest from

Forum Moderators: phranque

Message Too Old, No Replies

AOL Reportedly Fires Tech Chief After Data 'Screw-Up'



3:36 pm on Aug 22, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator engine is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month Best Post Of The Month

Subsequent to this event [webmasterworld.com...]

AOL has fired its chief technology officer and two other employees following the inadvertent release this month of search records of more than 650,000 of the internet company's members, a move AOL itself called a "screw-up" that has stoked a heated debate about internet privacy.

Maureen Govern, who became technology chief last September, has left the company and her position has been temporarily taken by John McKinley, her predecessor. The researcher who released the data that was aimed at academics researching search patterns but was widely copied across the web and the researcher's supervisor have also been fired, according to people familiar with the matter.

AOL Fires Tech Chief After Data 'Screw-Up' [msnbc.msn.com]


3:48 pm on Aug 22, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member


One small step to corporate (and maybe political) US understanding just how sensitive personal data is. Once someone has stolen your ID, life becomes very difficult...

In this one small area the EU is 10+ years ahead of the US in protecting its citizens from attack/misuse/stupidity.




4:13 pm on Aug 22, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Man this is bad. I mean .. if they are going to tell everyone who is searching for what they could at least do it in a public forum.


4:21 pm on Aug 22, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I think this is a knee-jerk reaction, and a mistake.

The firing of the CTO implies that CTOs are to micro-manage their staff.

I would have fired the Chief Compliance Officer.

Privacy and corporate needs are not uniquely US specific.

[edited by: Tapolyai at 4:24 pm (utc) on Aug. 22, 2006]


4:27 pm on Aug 22, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member


Yes, clearly very unfortunate for the individual members of staff involved as I'm quite happy to believe that there was no malicious intent and possibly no rules or laws (except of common sense) broken.

But the CxO role is partly a figurehead role (I have a CTO role!) and figureheads exist partly to roll (pun fully intended) in crises.




4:57 pm on Aug 22, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I note that the reports now say she resigned.

Meanwhile, websites have been set-up to allow anyone to sort through the data and articles offering analysis are appearing everywhere.

We should start a thread (here?) of links to worthwhile articles with good analysis of the data.

Here's my very short (one sentence) analysis-
The number one searched website on AOL: Google.
ROTFL, although Lee Gomes wrote in the WSJ last week that searching for Google might be efficient Web surfing. "You're relying on the friendly, type-fixing search box, rather than the unforgiving URL bar at the top of your browser."

Gomes made several interesting points:
"One thing about us Internet users: We like our music, we like our pictures, we like our sex -- and we like them all free."

Gomes found out something that headline writers have known forever: "the most commonly used word in the 17.15 million separate searches was "free." If something isn't free, it better at least be "new," as that was the next-most common word." He reports the next most popular words were "lyrics," "county," "school," "city," "home," "state," "pictures," "music," "sale," "beach," "high," "map," "center" and "sex."

Many are talking about how the data shows that 42% of the time people clicked on the first link presented to them.

In regards to privacy, Gomes closed with this story:

Data aside, reading these queries is like listening in on random phone calls; even if you don't know who is talking, the experience can be wrenching.
Consider the person who, over the course of a few minutes, searched for
"What to do when your Christian husband turns away from God," "How to deal with mental abuse in a Christian marriage" and "Do I stay or go when a Christian husband is on drugs and alcohol."
One of the recommended sites gave thoughtful answers to important life questions from an evangelical Christian perspective. The other hawked Bible books.


6:47 pm on Aug 22, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

This is just a way for AOL to save face after the screwup. Sad part is the CTO probably had absolutely nothing to do with this; you wouldn't expect the CEO to be fired if an AOL employee steals employee information. I guess such is business, fire those involved, issue press release, someone writes about it on WebmasterWorld, and yipee, AOL loves security again!


7:01 pm on Aug 22, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jtara is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Reportedly, she authorized the release.

The sad part is if the lower-level employees were fired for doing what they were told to do.


12:17 pm on Aug 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

On the other hand the lower level staff could of made the cock up.


3:20 pm on Aug 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Either way, its not a nice situation for all involved. Still, would have loved to be a fly on the wall down at AOL HQ when they realised what had happened.


10:57 pm on Aug 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Leaders always take part of the blame and a lot of the glory. as for her "resigning" that basically means they said something to the effect of "either walk out the door with dignity or get kicked out."

Featured Threads

Hot Threads This Week

Hot Threads This Month