User 927: U Are What U Seek: Search Engine Drama


"User 927" - subtitled "U are what U Seek" - is the first drama inspired by search engine keywords such as Mange, human mold, and white camellia. Not to mention the bizarre combination of "dying Elmo." First noted in the blog Consumerist back in April, User 917 is a thriller about cyberstalking, search engines, and the way information is obtained, manipulated, and released in our wired world

The Associated Press published an interesting article today about a theatre production based on AOL keywords that were released inadvertently by AOL and posted on the Internet. In the play, the keywords are clues to finding a missing person.

"User 927" is a new production in Philadelphia that combines fact with fiction to tell the story of a disappearance from a small Midwestern town. It's the story of a mother and her teenage daughter who move from Brooklyn, N.Y., to fictional Osterville, Ind., in search of a simpler life. The story's central clue is the real-life online search log of an AOL subscriber — identified only as User 927 — that was released to the public two years ago in a well-publicized privacy faux pas.

Brat Production also produced "A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pagaent" - unrelated to the ongoing Google-YouTube controversy pitting Anonymous versus Scientologists.

AOL released some 19 million search requests made during a a three month period by more than 650,000 subscribers. The logs were intended to help academic researchers, but they were posted on a public site.

User 927 has never been identified publicly. Not surprisingly, no one has claimed credit for being User 927.

About the author

Kevin Heisler, formerly the executive editor of Search Engine Watch, is a search and advertising industry veteran. His former roles include VP, strategic accounts for integrated digital marketing firm 360i; director of business development for Didit Search Marketing; and search industry analyst at Jupiter Research.

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