Privacy Breach Costs AOL CTO, Two Others Their Jobs; Privacy Taskforce Started


Updated: AOL CTO Maureen Govern, who came on board last September, is out the door following the release of search data that could be traced to individuals, according to WSJ Reuters, citing an internal memo. (Note: I saw it first on Reuters; I found out later the Journal published first.) Former CTO John McKinley is returning to that post. Despite Reuters’ use of the word “accidentally” the release of the info may have been intemperate but it was intentional; those involved did not consider the full consequences of posting material for research. Also leaving following the breach: a researcher in the technology research department and that researcher’s supervisor.
— USA Today has posted two internal memos (via AOL PR) from Chairman Jon Miller: “… it was disheartening to see so much good work destroyed by a single act. … This incident took place because some employees did not exercise good judgment or review their proposal with our privacy team. We are taking appropriate action with the employees who were responsible. But more importantly, we are taking a number of additional steps, on top of our strong existing security systems, to help ensure this type of incident never happens again.”
— One step is the creation of a taskforce headed by AOL Vice Chairman Ted Leonsis and AOL General Counsel Randy Boe to review customer information privacy policy.
— The moves followed the filing of two complaints with the FTC.
WSJ: “The firings come after weeks of negative publicity in connection with the disclosure, which AOL said was a mistake.” (Note: The Journal now has a correction saying the CTO was not fired; the other two were dismissed.)
NYT: Kevin Bankston, a lawyer for EFF, one of the groups that complained: “Staffing changes aren’t going to get to the root of this problem. … It’s a problem that reaches to the whole search industry and not just AOL.”

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