Communications of the Association for Information Systems


AOL's recent public release of user search information resulted in a heated privacy debate. This case study is a detailed account of this incident. The case is designed as an in-class teaching aid covering managerial, legal, and ethical issues related to privacy. It consists of four sections (A, B, C, and D). Each section is fairly short and is designed to be read in class, separated by discussion of the previous section. Alternatively, the first section might be distributed in advance; though this runs the risk of students identifying the case and jumping ahead in the discussion (AOL's identity is concealed from students until the end of section B). A set of potential discussion questions for each section appears in the appendix. While there are too many questions to be covered in a single class, instructors can choose questions based on their particular teaching objective. A teaching note is also available from the authors.