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Searching for Trouble

While you may enjoy perusing the fascinating--and often disturbing--search queries of more than a half-million AOL users inadvertently published to the Internet, the disclosure challenges the notion that the more information you gather about your customers, the better.

The exposure of anonymous search requests seems innocuous, but personally identifiable information permeates the search logs. For instance, based on her search terms, The New York Times identified, and subsequently interviewed, 62-year-old Thelma Arnold.

The public and U.S. Congress will likely demand better protection for information collected online, including search and e-mail logs. Now is the time to examine the type of data you collect, procedures for safeguarding it and the length of time it's retained. --Patrick Mueller, [email protected]