AOL's Govern leaves after breach

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CTO Maureen Govern has left AOL in the wake of this month's privacy beach in which the internet giant mistakenly posted the search queries of some 650,000 subscribers on a research website.

It is unclear whether Govern, CTO for about a year, resigned or was fired, according to an Associated Press report that cited a memo circulated today to AOL employees by CEO Jonathan Miller.

The AOL researcher who released the data and that employee's supervisor also were let go. An AOL spokesperson could not be reached for comment today by SC Magazine.

Govern will be replaced by John McKinley, the company's CTO before taking over as president of AOL's digital services unit.

No subscribers were identified by their more than 20 million search inquiries, which were posted for search researchers but discovered by numerous bloggers who posted the results on their sties. Many of the three month's worth of search queries contained personally identifiable information that interested users often type into search engines, such as their names, Social Security numbers and bank account information.

Since the breach, privacy watchdog group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate and demand that AOL improve its privacy policies. The organization also asked the FTC to require AOL to notify customers about the breach and to stop collecting search data "except where absolutely necessary," according to an EFF statement.

"Search terms can expose the most intimate details of a person's life - private information about your family problems, your medical history, your financial situation, your political and religious beliefs, your sexual preferences and much more," EFF staff attorney Marcia Hofmann said in the statement.

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