In the early 1990s, three major ISPs existed: AOL, CompuServe, and Prodigy. There were several other internet providers as well, such as MSN, GEnie, and EWorld, but they had a much smaller userbase. AOL is still around, but as most of you know, it has far more competition these days. Fast forward to 2006. AOL, for “research purposes,” released an enormous amount of user search queries to the public; it’s explained in more detail on Wikipedia here: AOL search data leak.
In any case, one of my favorite YouTubers, ReignBot, made a video regarding this data leak, specifically a certain user only known as “User 927.”
As explained in the video, this particular user’s search history stood out, due to a number of unusual and disconcerting terms found within. While some of the search terms were benign, further down the list you would find terms like these:
927 mold on humans 2006-03-03 21:23:59
927 mold on humans 2006-03-03 21:24:13
927 mold on humans 2006-03-03 21:24:48
927 mold on humans 2006-03-03 21:24:58
927 skin mold 2006-03-03 21:25:34
927 skin mold 2006-03-03 21:25:50
927 skin mold 2006-03-03 21:27:26
927 skin mold and fungi 2006-03-03 21:28:06
927 skin mold and fungi 2006-03-03 21:28:21
927 dog sex 2006-03-03 21:30:00 3 http://www.actionlove.com
927 dog sex 2006-03-03 21:30:00 6 http://webstc.com
927 dog sex 2006-03-03 21:30:00 7 http://www.polymer-search.com
927 dog sex 2006-03-03 21:30:00 8 http://portal.web.worldonline.cz
927 dog sex 2006-03-03 21:30:00 9 http://www.sfweekly.com
Strangely, between the disturbing search terms were more mundane ones like types of flowers and phone number lists. It’s unknown whether the search history was connected to more than one person or not. In the early ’00s and before, it was much more common for families to share a computer, and smartphones were not as ubiquitous as they are today.
The full list of search terms contains references to child abuse, pedophilia, and rape. It can be found here, for those who are interested: Business Insider: AOL user 927’s entire sordid search log. This brings up several issues: while privacy is important, there are always those who will abuse privacy tools, and the question becomes – do even the abusers deserve privacy? People have asked before if tools like Tor are helping child abusers and other types. On the one hand, the answer is yes; even so, agencies like the FBI have managed to seize a number of sites like this, even when they had the advantage of Tor, etc.
On the other hand, it seems that people who use Tor, I2P, etc. to hide activities like this still eventually get caught due to human error. In some infamous cases, like the Playpen case, users on such sites were compromised due to things like malware which gave away their real identities. User 927, however, has never been identified, at least not publicly.
This is obviously a controversial and disturbing subject, but your comments are welcome. If you have more knowledge to share about this case or ones like it, feel free to contact me. Also, if you want to help the FBI identify child victims, please visit this page: