AOL Search Data Settlement

Class Eligibility:

The settlement covers users of AOL between March 1, 2006 and May 31, 2006, who used AOL search, and think their search data may have been made public.

This is one of the most convoluted class eligibility classifications we have seen. AOL doesn’t know or isn’t telling users whose search data was made available. So it is completely up to users to guess whether they were affected or not.

Our best guess is that if you were an AOL user at the time, and you used AOL search, then you are eligible at least for Tier 1.

Estimated Amount: Tier 1 ($50) – if you were an AOL member between March and May 2006 and believe your search data was made available
Tier 2 ($100) – if you were an AOL member between March and May 2006 and believe your search data was made available and you were identified from the data or you could reasonably be identified from the search data.
Arbitration Claim – if you are eligible for Tier 2 and think the harm you suffered was greater than $100, you can file an arbitration claim and will have your claim individually evaluated by an arbitrator who will decide what settlement amount you will get.
Note that as with most settlements, if the $5,000,000 claim fund is oversubscribed, claims are all proportionately reduced.
Proof of Purchase: None.
Claim Form: AOL Search Data Claim Form (PDF)
You can’t e-file claims. But you can fill out the PDF and email it to the administrator instead of snail-mailing it.
Case Name: Landwehr v. AOL Inc., Case No. No. 1:11 – CV – 01014
Case Summary:

AOL released a trove of user search data about it users for researchers to use. They made the data freely available on their website. While AOL tried to make the data anonymous, they didn’t do a great job only substituting a number for the user’s AOL ID, and you could in some cases figure out who did the search. Indeed, that very year the New York Times did a story where they tracked down a user based on the supposed anonymous data. There is also a Wikipedia entry about the AOL Search Data debacle.

This lawsuit is unfortunate, because it arises out of AOL trying to do something good and make data available for researchers. AOL seems to have been motivated only by altruism. They did not have to make the data available, and did not profit from making the data available. Their altruism, albeit stupid altruism, ended up biting them in the ass.

We hope the result of this lawsuit will not be to discourage all companies from making any data available, and that instead it will only discourage companies from making data available without engaging their brain.

Speaking of not engaging your brain, in 2006 who was still using AOL search. Apparently this guy.

Settlement Pool: $5,000,000
Settlement Website: AOL Search Data Settlement
Claim Form Deadline: To Be Determined (estimated July 26, 2013)
Claims Administrator: AOL Search Data Settlement Administrator
P.O. Box 65771
Sterling, VA 20165-8806
(855) 575 – 0127