AOL Sued Over Search Data Release

AOL is facing a possible class action lawsuit over the release of search result data of 650,000 users in July. While the identities of those involved were scrambled, some of the data included within provided evidence of possible crimes.

The suit was filed in federal court for the Northern District of California by the law firm of Berman, DeValiero, Pease, Tabacco, Burt & Pucillo of San Francisco. It accuses AOL of violating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, plus several California consumer and advertising laws.

In seeking class action status, the suit asks for no less than $1,000 in compensation to those nationwide for violations of federal law, and an additional $4,000 in damages to those in California under the state's own laws.

Since it is not clear how many of the 650,000 AOL members included in the search data release were from California, it is also not immediately clear how much AOL would be ordered to pay as part of the class action, although a judgement against AOL would likely cost it several million dollars to settle.

Additionally, injunctive relief has been sought to prevent AOL from storing search result data in the future and making it publicly available, whether for commercial or non-commercial purposes. Lawyers for the plaintiffs are also asking the court to order that AOL pay all court costs.

"On information and belief, AOL, without the knowledge of its members, has a business practice of recording and storing each and every Internet search query made by each of its members," the suit alleges.

AOL was not commenting on the lawsuit.

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