Researchers for the Internet service provider, America Online, recently released logs of searches conducted by site subscribers, which has been posted on the Web. The data is searchable by search terms, the domain address from which the searcher came to AOL and user identification number. The collection covers 36,389,567 searches that took place between March 1 and May 31, 2006, according to an Information Today article.
The New York Times article, A Face Is Exposed for AOL Searcher No. 4417749, unravels how the authors linked a user ID to a person.
A quick search for “private investigator”, sorted by user ID returned a list of queries from someone who may have revealed his or her location as Fenton, Missouri, looking for “field investigator employment”. Click on the user ID to bring up all the search terms entered by that person, including personal names, and you’ll see what a valuable tool this is for background development. It can also be useful for identifying search terms people use to get to your Web site. For example someone who searched for “PI Magazine” also entered these other search phrases.