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Tuesday, August 22, 2006
AOL Chief Technology Officer Resigns


AOL chief technology officer Maureen Govern, who oversaw the division responsible for accidentally releasing search data for more than a half a millions Internet users, has resigned from the company, according to an internal company memorandum.

John McKinley, AOL's former CTO, will take over on an interim basis, according to the memo obtained by Reuters on Monday. Govern joined the company last September.

AOL apologized on August 7 for releasing information onto the Web about 20 million keyword searches from about 658,000 anonymous users over a three-month period. Disclosing the data was against company policy, AOL said at the time.

The release of data by the online division of media conglomerate Time Warner Inc. drew the ire of privacy advocates, who called for the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to review the company's customer data retention practices.

Collecting and sharing Internet user data for any purpose is under close scrutiny by privacy watchdogs. Internet search leader Google Inc. won plaudits for refusing to comply with U.S. government demands to hand over search data.

In response to a torrent of criticism across the Internet, AOL also said it plans to create a task force to review its customer information privacy policy.

Privacy advocates such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a complaint with the FTC last week requesting an investigation into AOL's privacy practices, arguing that the Internet provider did not need to store such search data.

AOL's task force will also review other measures to protect users, including ways to prevent the storage of any sensitive data in the research database that include 16 digits, like those of many credit cards.


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