AOL LLC has fired its chief technology officer (CTO) in the wake of a controversy in which the Web portal and Internet service provider released private search results of thousands of its subscribers, the Wall Street Journal Online reported Monday.

Maureen Govern was fired effective immediately, the paper reported, just short of her first anniversary as CTO. A researcher and the manager of the research project at issue also lost their jobs.

AOL has come under criticism from Internet privacy watchdogs after it was discovered that the company had posted to a research Web site the results of more than 2 million search queries made by 650,000 AOL subscribers between March 1 and May 31. AOL researchers posted the data online, although it was intended only for use by AOL researchers.

Even though no personally identifiable information about AOL subscribers was revealed, the posting of search queries prompted another round of debate about the privacy rights of people who search online using AOL or other search engines. AOL has since removed the data from the Web.

Govern was responsible for overseeing the AOL division responsible for the data release.

AOL, a unit of Time Warner Inc. in New York, did not return a call seeking comment.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada