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AOL's top tech exec leaves after privacy leak
Published: 2006-08-22

America Online accepted the resignation of its chief technology officer on Monday, and fired two other employees, following the leak of nearly 20 million search queries earlier this month.

Chief technology officer Maureen Govern "decided to leave AOL effective immediately," according to an e-mail sent by Internet giant's CEO Jonathan Miller and leaked to reporters. A source familiar with the incident, and who requested anonymity, also stated that the employee who posted the data and the employee's supervisor were both dismissed.

"This incident took place because some employees did not exercise good judgment or review their proposal with our privacy team," America Online LLC's CEO Jon Miller said in the letter received by reporters. "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."

Earlier this month, America Online apologized to its users after the company posted a database of 20 million searches to a public site. The data had been intended only for academic researchers but its location on the Web instead got mirrored by several blogs, leading to hundreds of downloads. Last week, two consumer advocacy groups, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the World Privacy Forum, filed complaints to the Federal Trade Commission, charging America Online with deceptive and unfair trade practices.

As a result of its corporate soul searching, America Online intends to create a task force to re-examine the company's privacy practices, further restrict access to any database that contains historical search queries, ensure that sensitive information is never again included in research databases, and institute additional employee education regarding privacy practices, according to an e-mail sent by Miller to employees and leaked to reporters.

Posted by: Robert Lemos
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