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AOL and their users: Dumb and Dumber

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The first question should be, "who the hell still uses AOL?" With DSL being advertised for $20 or less for new users, and cable providers doing more to use that fat pipe, LAist finds very little sympathy for modern-day web surfers who pay the Virginia company $28 a month for the wonders of dial-up.

And we have even less sympathy for those whose social security numbers ended up on an AOL-generated web site recently when the internet and content provider bent over for the prying eyes of BushCo and published 20 million keyword searches onto the WWW.

If you recall, the government, not satisfied with illegally tapping our phonelines, subpoenaed companies like Microsoft, AT&T, Google, and AOL in January under the guise of wanting to find out more about pornography queries by getting data on search terms and urls. Google refused to work with the feds and it appeared that AOL denied them as well until this weekend it was discovered that the Time Warner owner had collected everything the Justice Dept. had asked for -- and then some.

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Later the company apologized and called it a screw up.

But the screw up was in collecting the information in the first place. And worse, not going over the "sample" that they were providing from over 600,000 users. Hundreds of whom were silly enough to type their own social security numbers into the AOL search engine, seemingly curious to see what would pop up. And foolish enough to believe that AOL would keep something like that private.

You are who you associate yourself with, it appears, and the users who are still not only paying money for AOL, but choosing the AOL search box instead of Google's, are getting what they're paying for. Incompetence, failure, mediocrity, and shame. At one point AOL was on top of the world, able to buy up the giant media conglomerate Time Warner; now it appears that they can't even keep their secret dealings with the government private -- let alone your search queries, which include phone numbers and other data ideal for identity-theft crimes.

However, in a world where you could steal anyone's ID, why would you want to be an AOL user too lazy to stop getting pimped out of that dollar, too dumb to know there are other options, and too fearful that their friends might not be able to adjust to an omg new email address. A pox on all of their in boxes.

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan