As you may have heard, AOL released vast swaths of private search history data to the public recently. Now some crafty geek has made that data available for convenient browsing.
AOLSearchDatabase.com allows you to query and randomly view selections from the AOL data. Although users are identified only by an ID number, you’re able to view examples of the phrases on which they have searched. Frankly, I feel pretty dirty looking at it. But like a virtual car crash, I can’t look away. It’s an utterly fascinating series of psychological profiles of average Americans. Add to that the undeniably voyeuristic thrill of peeking into people’s search histories, and you have the makings of an ethical conundrum. I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about this. Maybe I’ll take this post down later, as AOL tried to do with its data, but for now I’ll just pretend that this information wants to be free. It’s interesting to note how difficult secrets are to keep in the Internet Age.