The release of AOL search data last week was an admitted mistake by AOL which prompted them to apologize and express anger for its release. With the NY Times identifying the first person, AOL searcher 4417749, based on her search query data AOL representatives once again apologized. I like the way AOL handled the situation. With the damage done, the event can be leveraged into a wonderful lesson as it brought to light the fact that search companies have personal and identifable data that could be released to the public at any time.
So the question is, what should search companies do with search data? Should they hold on to it? Or should it be deleted after a few months? It is a debate that I am sure will take some time to determine the correct course of action. In the meantime, web users should realize that when using the web a footprint is being left that can be traced back to your foot - or in this case your search history.
Focusing on the positive, Lee Odden pointed me to an interesting tool called the AOL Keyword Analyzer. It offers keyword search information and domain name popularity derived from the AOL search data that was released. I think this is the type of useful resource AOL had in mind when they released the search data in the first place so I am happy to see someone followed through and created it.