AOL apologizes for posting customer data

US Internet giant AOL has apologized for posting 20 million keyword searches by more than 650,000 of its users on a research Web site, violating company rules on privacy, an AFP report said.

The report said although the searches were identified by anonymous user-ID numbers, the company said Tuesday that it had pulled the information it had collected from March to May off the Web site after bloggers became aware of it over the weekend.

The company issued an apology for its unauthorized use of the search data and said it had launched an internal investigation to prevent such mishaps and determine if disciplinary action was warranted, the report said.

"This was a screw-up and we're angry and upset about it," an AOL statement, quoted by The Washington Post, said.

The search data was published in July on a new AOL Web site designed to help search-technology researchers, the report said.

While one expert estimated that out of the 20 million searches, only a few hundred contained sensitive information such as credit card and Social Security numbers, others noted that all data passed on was a violation of privacy, the AFP report further said.