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What is your AOL Searcher No.?

We know who AOL Searcher No. 4417749 is, she is Thelma Arnold.

For those who came in late, earlier this week AOL apologized for releasing search log data on subscribers that had been intended for use with the company's newly launched research site.
The randomly selected data, which focused on 658,000 subscribers and posted 10 days ago, was among the tools intended for use on the recently launched AOL Research site. But the Internet giant has since removed the search logs from public view.

Then came the bizarre revelations as to what were some of the actual keywords used in the search. In the case of AOL user 17556639, these were :

how to kill your wife
pictures of dead people
photo of dead people
car crash photo

That raised the question whether it was possible to identify a particular user based on search keywords and prevent a crime or say even a terrorist attack. And now the NYTimes puts a face on No. 4417749 of the AOL list. It's a widow who from Georgia. Her searches over a three-month period included topics ranging from “numb fingers” to “60 single men” to “dog that urinates on everything.”

While the file was pulled by AOL, it is already circulating on peer networks and will never die out. A number of blogs are pointing to mirror sites to let people take a peek at the search logs of AOL users.
That raises several issues. If it was easy to track Thelma, it opens a can of worms when it comes to tracking down individuals based on what they searched for and who wants to exploit that information.

The next step would be for the Govt. to step in and order all the major search engines to profile search users inorder to track any criminal or terrorist activity.
While it could help in tracking the plans of terrorists as has been observed in recent times,they have relied heavily on the internet search engines for information on explosives etc, it would also make people hesitant on searching for information on the web.
As aptly summed up by this comment on techcrunch:
The ability to have curiosity and freely explore information is the greatest ability of a free culture. When people become afraid of seeking information — from fear of being viewed as a criminal — it will set society back into repression and darkness.

An alternative would be to not maintain those search logs at all, but will the search engine companies do that?

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