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AOL CTO resigns over privacy 'screw-up'

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AOL's chief technology officer has resigned and two other staff members have been sacked following the release of half a million subscribers' search terms.

Maureen Govern is leaving immediately and will be replaced temporarily by John McKinley, the current president of digital services.

According to a CNet source, the two staff fired were the researcher responsible for the data being posted online and the researcher's supervisor, who reports to Govern.

The company released three months of searches from over half a million subscribers. The data was meant for academic researchers, but ended up on public sites. Individuals were not named, but due to the nature of some searches and the inclusion of addresses and social security numbers, some people could be identified.

In an email to staff, AOL chief exec Jonathan Miller said the company was taking action to prevent such an incident happening again. He said the firm would set up a task force to look at privacy issues and data retention, put extra restrictions on employee access to data, educate staff about the issues, and look at technologies which could mark sensitive information.

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