These are two mostly unrelated thoughts, but that's what you get some days.

The Search Data Release

I was surprised that nobody asked me about the AOL Search data release at the Search Engine Strategies Conference last week. My take on it is similar to what Nelson said:

I'm glad the leak happened; now everyone can see just how sensitive search data is. And valuable, too. Search logs are the private corporate property of companies like AOL to use (or misuse) as they want. Or for the US government to subpoena. Is that the best world for us?

The way I'd phrase it is that I'm really glad it happened, (a) because now we can talk about how important it is, and (b) because it didn't happen to Yahoo.

Liquids on Airlines

Just when I thought the airlines and/or TSA couldn't get anymore stupid, they went and banned virtually all liquids on commercial airline flights. Well you know what? That's going to far. Way, way too far. I can't believe that the airlines didn't push back against these new rules.

If someone asks me to fly somewhere between now and whenever they come to their senses, I'll politely decline. I refuse to be treated as a potential hijacker. If I'm that dangerous, I should have never been given a pilot's license by the FAA in the first place.

Never underestimate the power of irrational fear.

Posted by jzawodn at August 15, 2006 08:02 AM

Reader Comments
# Rasmus said:

They went a little nuts for a couple of days there, but things are getting back to normal. Still no liquids, but laptops, mp3 players and just about everything else is allowed again. You can see the official list here:

on August 15, 2006 08:28 AM
# JG said:

You're right, the AOL data release did not happen at Yahoo. But I know for a fact there were Yahoo researcher(s) that are/were helping serve as touchpoints for the research use of this data. In other words, while it wasn't Yahoo's data, Yahoo did support the release/use of this data, at least implicitly.

That said, I think the main takeaway is as you say: I'm glad it happened because now we can talk about it.

One thing I find interesting, that no one is talking about, is Google's relation to all this. The AOL search is the Google search, is it not? When folks search on AOL, they are really searching on Google, rebranded, right?

Well, look at Google's privacy policy: "When we use third parties to assist us in processing your personal information, we require that they comply with our Privacy Policy and any other appropriate confidentiality and security measures." Is AOL not a 3rd party that assists with processing your personal information, i.e. your query?
So Google requires that AOL complies with Google's privacy policy.

And yet, the data was still released!

So this means either one of two things: (1) Google's privacy policy is such that they actually allow release of this data, or (2) Google is unable to stop its 3rd party partners from doing things that will violate Google users' privacy.

So what I am shocked about is the fact that I've seen no direct reaction or outrage from Google about this. Sure, Eric Schmidt said 'Never say never, but I'm pretty sure it won't happen here'. But don't folks realize that, because AOL is a 3rd party wrapper/interface to Google, because Google owns 5% of AOL, it actually did just happen here? Why don't we see a stronger reaction from Google, saying "This is horrible! This is terrible! Because of this, we are no longer going to partner with AOL for search. Thank you AOL, but we have now terminated our business relationship with you!"

No, you don't see that from Google. It's disappointing. It was a chance to show leadership and principle.

on August 15, 2006 09:00 AM
# Ryan said:

They're just going to go more nuts. I hear they're talking about banning gel shoe inserts too..

Pretty soon it'll be mandatory polygraphs and strip searches before getting on a plane.

My aunt is flying up this weekend from Texas on a small airline I've never heard of before, and they told her she has to check her laptop and cell phone. Said she's only allowed a purse, with no liquids.

What's next? background checks and 90 day waiting periods before flying? Passports needed at boarding? Airline passenger licences (with insecure rfid chips of course) ??

you know somewhere, terrorists are just laughing saying "ok, what can we make them ban now.. anybody know how to turn glasses or contacts into potential bombs? what about underwear.. what can we do with that."

You own a plane Jeremy, this should be a huge business opportunity for you, as more silicon valley types will be wanting to hire private jets instead of putting up with airplane hassles.

on August 15, 2006 09:03 AM
# Jeffrey Friedl said:

I did a Saturday/Monday round trip between San Jose and Portland. The added "security" is really quite silly. At both airports, after going through the security screening, you can stop off at a store and buy liquids to your heart's delight, including hot scalding ones. You're not supposed to bring them on the plane, of course, but no one checks. It's certainly a big win for airport kiosks, but just silly for everyone else.

And, oddly enough, Chapstick and lipstick, etc., are considered a "liquid/gel" for the purposes of this rule, so you're not supposed to have them. Yet the girl across the isle from me was refreshing her lipstick on the plane, and in doing so I felt my life was in jepardy! (not)

When talking about the terrorists, I don't know who "they" are, but "they" have certainly won, for they've created widespread terror -- terror of silly "security" measures. These latest British ones, if smart, got caught on purpose, for that ensures that their proposed methods are known, thereby creating the maximum kneejerk response by the authorities. But if they were really smart, they would have devised a plan using reading materials instead of liquids. Then, suddenly, your copy of Newsweek would be an instrument of terror and would be disallowed on flights around the world, creating maximum inconvenience.

Where's John Zent when you need him! :-)


on August 15, 2006 09:04 AM
# Chanel said:

So if all liquids are banned on board, does this mean ballpoint pens are banned too? *sigh*

The terrorist-on-a-plane solution is to perfect cryonics. It solves so many problems -- the airlines would no longer need to feed passengers, no more air rage, etc. I personally would like nothing better than to be knocked out for an overseas flight.

on August 15, 2006 09:41 AM
# grumpY! said:

i would love to see them simply ban most carry-on luggage. so very tired of those kind folks who take up overhead space allotted to three people just because they can't be bothered to check their bags or are obsessing over their bags being lost. embark/disembark time could be cut by 75% if people only brought on one small bag (i.e. small bike courier-style bag, purse, etc) per person, max.

ryan - "air taxis" will likely see better business, but since the toilet on most personal prop planes is a box of Depend undergarments, i would not expect to see executives flock to this class of vehicle, unless a preflight enema sounds like fun to you.

jeremy - all fears are irrational.

on August 15, 2006 09:46 AM
# Ryan said:

Hey, I used to love carryon luggage. I could manage to go for a 2 week trip with just a duffel bag and a laptop case. (provided you wear the suit on the plane). I don't think I've ever checked a bag at the airport. Too much hassle.

Can you imagine checking laptops though? Theft is going to be HUGE.

on August 15, 2006 10:17 AM
# Stephan said:

I have to fly out east for a few days in the coming weeks and the new regulations just throw a huge kink in my plans. I usually just carry a small backpack like bag with my clothes and my laptop bag, now I have to check said backpack because I keep my hair gel and toothpaste in there. Ugh, guess I'll just buy it when I get there.

grumpY!, do a search for Brian Regan's take on carry-on luggage. Pretty funny stuff.

on August 15, 2006 10:23 AM
# Joseph Hunkins said:

Both good points and both relate to irrationality. IMHO people are missing the key point about privacy -- that cat is out of the bag. We need rules about how to penalize for abuses of information, not the pretense that AOL/Yahoo/Google/MSN will do a great job of keeping information away from Govt or commercialization. People worry about abstract Government abuses even as their search stream is processed to invoke better manipulation of their behavior.

RE screening pilots ... sounds logical, but the FAA's record of identifying flight school terrorists is not ... impressive. I think the "answer" is for us all to realize that we can't lower the risk threshold to zero so we should optimize the costs and benefits, allocating resources to the "low hanging fruit" problems in all sectors that are cheap to solve. Solving terror problems in the current fashion is so expensive it's breaking the bank which will lead to more vulnerability.

on August 15, 2006 10:43 AM
# Joseph Essas said:

The only system that works is implemented by El Al Airlines in Israel. You can bring anything you want on board, you don't have to take off your shoes, don't have to take out your laptop from the bad for checkup, minimal hassle, just simple electronic screening.
However, next to check-in counter, you've been asked couple of security questions by *trained* professionals. They don't care about your answers, but look at your general reaction to the process, how you look, are you nervous etc. If something looks even slightly suspicious, they'll pull you aside, and will do a proper search.

We can kid ourselves that pulling out random 90 year old ladies will prevent terrorism, but at the end of the day, you have to search people who look suspicious. Maybe it's not politically correct, but that's the only model that works.

on August 15, 2006 11:04 AM
# Brad said:

grumpY! - your name is appropriate. Banning carry-on luggage would be asinine. I don't obsess about my checked bags being lost - I look at the track record: 3 out of the last 10 times I've checked luggage. Maybe you don't mind getting your bags 24 hours after you arrive at your destination, but I do.

Just a few months ago I had a bag arrive on time, but some new clothing items removed from my checked bags - I'm sure some TSA goon is enjoying them now. If they think that I am going to let them go Christmas shopping by checking my laptop, digital camera, and ipod, they are crazy.

on August 15, 2006 12:06 PM
# grumpY! said:

>> Maybe you don't mind getting your bags 24 hours after you arrive at your destination, but I do.

well maybe you don't mind putting all of your carry ons in the small space allotted for your feet, but i do.

and that is exactly where you will be putting them. i travel with two young children, so chances are, i will be getting on before you and the other adult travellers. since i can assign two max-sized carry-ons to each of them, as well as myself and my wife, i can assure you that we will preemptively consume the overhead space you thought was your fair share. now since my kids can't actually carry bags larger than themselves, chances are you will also wait for us to wrestle this mess of the plane, adding to your own disembark time.

and this behavior is exactly why carry-on baggage should be further constrained. see, i'm just trying to help you.

on August 15, 2006 03:09 PM
# Rocky Agrawal said:

The results of a Newsweek poll are mind-boggling: 46% of Americans support a ban on all carry ons. Further,
"The poll also found support for banning liquids in carry-ons, with 69 percent favoring that approach. Beverages still can be put in U.S. checked baggage."

I'd love to know what % of those have ever checked a bag on an airline.

Note that all flight crews are exempt.

As to the other issue... I work for AOL Search, so I'm NOT glad it happened. I'm pissed, as are most people here.

on August 15, 2006 06:54 PM
# Loren Baker said:

"The results of a Newsweek poll are mind-boggling: 46% of Americans support a ban on all carry ons. Further,
'The poll also found support for banning liquids in carry-ons, with 69 percent favoring that approach. Beverages still can be put in U.S. checked baggage.'"

Those people, if they've actually even flown before, will more than likely forget that they took the telephone survey (which was probably held at 11 am Thursday) in week or so.

I had not heard of laptop or iPod check-in, but was not too offended when I had to check-in my carry on bag last week. Hopefully, the airlines will get their sh!t together and figure this out..

Because I'm not paying $5 for a damn watered down drink when I can carry-on a bottle of Jack!

on August 16, 2006 08:24 PM
# AngryPrivatePilot said:

This is asinine. All these people saying "well, you can just check your luggage" don't fly 100K miles per year. We frequent business travelers are the only reason the airlines can stay in business. Adding another hour to every flight (check in earlier, then wait for bags at the end) is the surest way to keep us off the planes.

Each additional security feature that treats passengers like prisoners will kill people, as more travelers take to dangerous highways instead of safe airlines. Frankly, we've basically solved the problem of bombs on planes since the 1980s by making it difficult to send a bomb on a plane you don't board. It's essentially impossible to prevent a determined suicidal terrorist from blowing himself up. The fact that many millions of flights have taken off and landed in the US without incident in five years tells me that the number of people willing and capable of blowing themselves up on a US airliner is small, and that the level of security we've had the past few years is clearly sufficient.

on August 16, 2006 08:43 PM
# SEO Portal said:
on August 17, 2006 04:19 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

SEO Portal:

I'm not sure I see what you're getting at. People make mistakes. In aggregate, they make lots of them.

Are you sure SEO portal shouldn't be called AdSense portal? You have way to many ads for the small amount of content. It's distrubing.

on August 17, 2006 06:43 AM
# SEO Portal said:


I know people make mistakes, but that's not the point.
The point is that results are clicked according the data, but that doesnt seem to be possible in reality: an empty search doesnt return any results...

on August 17, 2006 12:28 PM
# whoopeee said:

AngryPrivatePilot: "Frankly, we've basically solved the problem of bombs on planes since the 1980s by making it difficult to send a bomb on a plane you don't board."

MSNBC Interview with a plane cargo/baggage loader August 2006: "the only cargo routinely and reliably inspected even today is livestock inspected by the FDA. everything else pretty much goes right through, no one looks at it or scans it"

on August 17, 2006 03:07 PM
# Yogish Baliga said:

The day is not far when people will go through the security naked and get the airline provided dress. That would be like a jail environment.

One positive stuff I can think of this is like the school uniform. No one in the aircraft will feel poor compared to others. :-)

That dude called John Reid carried the bomb in the shoe, airlports started asking everyone to remove the shoes. Some people try to blow up the plain with liquid explosives, airports started banning the liquids. Imagine if someone put a bomb in his arse and try to blow up the plain... :-)

on August 17, 2006 05:49 PM
# colbert said:

this whole liquid bomb thing is making life for airline passengers hell. I wanted to visit US next month with my wife but I'm not going. I don't want to go through a 5 hour flight checking.

on August 23, 2006 05:43 AM
# Ben said:

whoopeee, I think the point is not that a bomb can't be smuggeld onto a plane, but it cant' be smuggled onto an plane on which the passenger is not boarded, hence they would have to be suicidal. This is (in many airports) handled by an automated baggage reconciliation system which positively matches any laoded bags with a boarded passenger (whenever the baggage loader scans the bag for loading into the ULD for example). Any noshow passengers at the gate and the bags will be offloaded and subjected to detailed screening before being sent onto another flight.

on August 26, 2006 11:05 AM
# Sheeri said:

Catching up.....but you obviously underestimate the power of my DEADLY TOOTHPASTE!

on September 6, 2006 02:52 PM
# Juan said:

The TSA is banning "all liquids" because it's easier than saying, "ok we can let juice, but not water". If you start making acceptions to a rule, then things get more complicated. Unless you work for the TSA and know exactly why the implement certain rules then you should not be complaining. Besides they're just there to make sure your flight is safe. If it's such a bother to go through screening, then just drive to all of your out of state destinations.

on September 18, 2006 10:27 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

"Unless you work for the TSA and know exactly why the implement certain rules then you should not be complaining."

That's bullshit and you know it. Those are my tax dollars at work. I have a right to complain if I don't like what is being done with them.

on September 18, 2006 10:47 PM
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone. My current, past, or previous employers are not responsible for what I write here, the comments left by others, or the photos I may share. If you have questions, please contact me. Also, I am not a journalist or reporter. Don't "pitch" me.


Privacy: I do not share or publish the email addresses or IP addresses of anyone posting a comment here without consent. However, I do reserve the right to remove comments that are spammy, off-topic, or otherwise unsuitable based on my comment policy. In a few cases, I may leave spammy comments but remove any URLs they contain.