You Are What You Search

Just a quick post to this very interesting article on by Paul Boutin that I found here on slashdot. Using the tools at and the search history records on 650K members that were released (and subsequently retracted) by AOL, Boutin makes a taxonomy of seven different types of Internet search users:

  • The pornhound
  • The manhunter
  • The shopper
  • The obsessive
  • The omnivore
  • The newbie
  • The basket case

The depth of the released data is a little scary. You can see searches in chronological order and the exact search terms used.

For a concrete lesson on Internet privacy, click here to see the search history for AOL user 672638. From the article:

The searches of AOL user No. 672368, for example, morphed over several weeks from “you’re pregnant he doesn’t want the baby” to “foods to eat when pregnant” to “abortion clinics charlotte nc” to “can christians be forgiven for abortion.”

When John Battelle called Internet search logs humanity’s “database of intentions” he wasn’t far off the mark, indeed.

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