AOL's claims that the identity of the searchers has been withhold and thus cause no violation has fallen to pieces. User No. 4417749, the number as assigned by the AOL to protect the searcher’s anonymity, has been exposed. New York Times figured out who she was and interviewed her about her searching habits for the story. Thelma Arnold, a 62-year-old widow who lives in Lilburn. She "…frequently researches her friends’ medical ailments and loves her three dogs. “Those are my searches,” she said, after a reporter read part of the list to her."
Although AOL removed the search data from its site and apologized for its release, records of searches conducted by Ms. Arnold and 657,000 other Americans, continue to circulate online.
"Ms. Arnold, who agreed to discuss her searches with a reporter, said she was shocked to hear that AOL had saved and published three months’ worth of them. “My goodness, it’s my whole personal life,” she said. “I had no idea somebody was looking over my shoulder.”