Lottery Post Journal

Staggering invasion of privacy

AOL Users: you must check out this story to see what your ISP has done.

This is exactly what privacy advocates have been warning about for so long.  These huge companies like AOL (and Google) are collecting mountains of data on everything you do online, and make no mistake, it can be tracked back to you and used against you.

In the case of this story, AOL has for some unknown reason released 20 million search records from its database to the general public, for anyone who wanted to see it.

AOL has since taken down the link to the data, but I obtained a copy myself, and it is quite interesting.

Apart from being outraged by what they have done, I have learned just how easy it is to figure out who is searching for what.

The link article above describes how to figure out who you are looking at the search results.  It's true: I did some poking around in the data, and it is fairly easy, even though they have replaced AOL usernames with numbers.

From a selfish standpoint, one thing that is pretty fun to see is how popular Lottery Post and USA Mega are in the search results.

From a privacy perspective, I can match up AOL queries to people, because people often search for their own name, to see what is posted about them out there.  AOL has structured the data so that the searches for each user is grouped together, so it's very easy to see what sites one person surfed to, in order of date and time.

I told you it was a staggering invsaion of privacy, didn't I?

By looking at my own web server logs over several years, I know that many Lottery Post users do not bookmark Lottery Post to come back here each time, they actually type the words "lottery post" into their search engine, and then click on the link that comes up.  (Don't ask me why,  but it's probably just because they don't know enough about computers to bookmark a favorite link.)

Knowing this, I can easily pick out the Lottery Post users in the AOL search listings, because they are the ones who frequently type "lottery post" for the search term, and then click on Lottery Post each time.  (Other people who aren't looking specifically to come to Lottery Post will type something like "NY Lottery", and Lottery Post will happen to come up high in the search rankings, so they click on it.)

So here's one snippet of search results that shows how easy it is to see what a lottery post user is interested in, and where they've been.  I specifically chose one snippet that did not reveal too much, and did not appear to be from a LP member (or have porn in it).  Keep in mind, there are many, many instances where people would be shocked to see what is in there because anyone could see exactly which Lottery Post member was doing the searching, by what was typed in the search terms.

UserSearch TermDate/TimeRankURL
762549ringtones  4/20/2006 23:30  
762549ringtones4/20/2006 23:351http://www.sprintusers.com
762549ringtones4/20/2006 23:355http://www.ringtones.lt
762549ringtones4/21/2006 0:012http://www.sprintusers.com
762549ringtones4/21/2006 0:014http://www.ringtones.lt
762549the who4/21/2006 0:05  
762549omhttp4/21/2006 16:28  
762549funbrain.com4/21/2006 16:46  
762549medco health solution4/25/2006 19:293http://www.topix.net
762549medco health solution nj4/25/2006 19:441http://www.indeed.com
762549medco health solution nj4/25/2006 19:449http://money.cnn.com
762549medco health solution4/25/2006 19:47  
762549www.medco health solution4/25/2006 19:47  
762549www.medcoheathsolution4/25/2006 19:48  
762549www.hotmail.com4/25/2006 22:51  
762549www.medco health solution4/27/2006 11:59  
762549mereck4/27/2006 12:18  
762549merck4/27/2006 12:191http://www.merck.com
762549striderite shoes4/27/2006 15:07  
762549striderite shoes store4/27/2006 15:12  
762549striderite4/27/2006 15:141http://www.striderite.com
762549ga lottery5/8/2006 0:061http://www.galottery.com
762549powerball5/8/2006 0:131http://www.powerball.com
762549mcg5/10/2006 15:481http://www.mcg.edu
7625491023695.odto605w.info5/10/2006 18:54  
762549powerball5/11/2006 15:512http://www.mnlottery.com
762549powerball5/11/2006 15:511http://www.powerball.com
762549si5/12/2006 21:01  
762549disneycannel.com5/12/2006 21:02  
762549disneychannel.com mothersday5/12/2006 21:06  
762549mothersdaycards.com5/12/2006 21:111http://mothers-day-cards.lowadjustableratemortgage.com
762549mother's day cards5/12/2006 21:25  
762549g355/12/2006 22:15  
762549325i5/12/2006 22:151http://www.bmwusa.com
762549powerball5/15/2006 20:582http://www.lottery.state.mn.us
762549ga lottery5/15/2006 21:001http://www.galottery.com
762549ga lottery5/15/2006 21:002https://www.lotterypost.com
762549ga lottery5/15/2006 21:001http://www.galottery.com
762549powerball5/18/2006 21:341http://www.powerball.com
762549go army5/21/2006 18:091http://www.goarmy.com
762549used cars5/21/2006 19:17  
762549milton ruben5/21/2006 19:351http://www.miltonruben.com
762549wonka.com5/24/2006 16:331http://www.wonka.com

The ranking shows what number that particular link came up in the search results.  See how you can follow the date/time to see this user's search patterns?

4 Comments:

  • I'm over 40 and no bill gates       my one finger typing finds lots of neat things I have thing that would be questioned stored in my searches   the net is a big town and I go every where even across the tracks        and sometimes short cuts lead to odd places    I use Quicken for accounting and Think the government looks in all Quicken accounts   but what can we do    no Government respect

    By fxsterling, at 11:38 AM

  • Shocking.

    I'm singing this song again:

    "Every breath you take and every move you make, every bond you break, every step you take, I'll be watching you... Every single day and every word you say, every game you play... I'll be watching you..."

    By csfb, at 1:11 PM

  • fx: It is really amazing about just how many people go to "the other side of the tracks". In fact, just about every user does normal queries for stuff like dog supplies, building equipment, doll furniture, etc., and then launches into porn searches, and in many cases, illegal types of porn. Some people look like they look upon the Internet as nothing but a very large issue of Penthouse magazine. After seeing that, it is no wonder that the porn industry makes so much money. Personally, I cannot imagine wasting that much time searching for porn. I'd say it's really a problem when every time people sit down at a computer they feel the need to search for porn. They have too much free time on their hands (no pun intended), and should invest that time in learning something new, or may be building a business.

    csfb: I totally agree with you, which is why I keep blogging about this topic. As stupid as AOL was to release this, I do not believe AOL would ever have released it if the government had not asked all the search companies to compile the information for them. We have a justice department that is OUT OF CONTROL.

    By Todd, at 1:26 PM

  • That's an incredible article Todd. Thanx...

    I used to have AOL about 4 years ago but gave them up because of techincal problems, bad customer service, and just plain, got old real fast. This was about the time when they were to go belly up.

    With the chip implant experiments going strong, it won't be soon before it's broad implementation becomes reality.

    "Just Another brick in the wall"
    Pink Floyd....

    By pacattack05, at 12:26 AM

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