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

33 Responses to AOL Search Data Settlement

  1. Hmm. So, what if you used AOL search during that time, but were not an AOL subscriber? (Say, a grandparent, now deceased, was?)

    Are you just SOL because this settlement does not cover you? Even though in theory AOL has the legal duty to protect your data as well?

  2. I was member from 2001-2007 and l’m trying to download a form an call the # and can’t
    get thur, disconnected # and error on claim form please help

    • The deadline for filing a claim was in July 2013. Anyone who did not file a claim by that time is not eligible for distribution.

  3. The court granted final approval of settlement back in May 2013. The last administrator handling settle is website I left a message for Joe today…let’s see if he calls back.

    Without objections on final approval, we should have been paid by now. Good luck!

  4. Good news! Joe just called back and said he spoke to AOL last week and they anticipate checks being sent out on November 12. Lookout for the $$$.

    • Thanks, Albert. I found the web site down and the toll-free number disconnected. Your information is reassuring that class members, indeed, will receive a settlements to which they are due from this action. I hope you are legitimate and are not an employee of AOL. LOL.

      • Someone just mentioned in the forums on OLS… that they got a check, that’s how I heard about it.

  5. I too had aol back in 2006. I cannot access the claim form. Please see that Im added to the correspondence list for this settlement. Thank you

  6. I’ve been an AOL member since December, 1996…nearing 17 years. I pretty much know I was on a Dell Dimension spring of 2006. So can we still file?

    ADMIN – Hi Katt,

    I am sorry that the claims period on this settlement has closed, so you cannot file a claim.

  7. Hello, the contact phone number doesn’t work and the claim website is no longer available. How do I email them my new mailing address?? Or will the check get forwarded to my new address or returned to the lawyers?

  8. I Just received a Tier 2 payment of $100 Check, but when I tried cash it, the bank (Chase) “REFUSED cash it stating that the account was not active!

  9. Received a check addressed to the wrong name. Sent it back on December 6th,2013 as instructed. Was told a new check would be issued in the correct name. Today is January 2nd, 2014. Have not heard a word. Who can you contact ?

  10. I have been an AOL member since the 1990’s. I filed a claim,when I received an email regarding the lawsuit, but as of date (1/9/14) I still haven’t receieved any additional info regarding the class action lawsuit. I had a friend who also a member as well, that I forwarded the info to regarding this lawsuit, was paid two months ago for $100.00.

    I look forward to getting some closure to this claim.


  11. I have been an aol member for at least ten years or more, I filed a claim, and have heard nothing about it . what is happening?

  12. I have been a member since 1998 with aol and filed all the papers and have not heard a word as of this date. 6/20/2014 could you let me know the status of this. THanks

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