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AOL Changing IM Terms of Service 229

Posted by Zonk
from the at-least-they're-trying dept.
gpmac writes "AOL has responded to the recent slashdot attention. America Online Inc. plans to make three small but significant modifications to the terms of service for its AIM instant messaging product to head off a firestorm of privacy-related criticisms. The tweaks to the terms of service will be made in the section titled "Content You Post" and will explicitly exclude user-to-user chat sessions from the privacy rights an AIM user gives up to AOL."
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AOL Changing IM Terms of Service

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  • From TFA... (Score:5, Informative)

    by daveschroeder (516195) * on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @01:59PM (#11945497)
    Not to quote the lion's share of the article here, but there are some things that need to be seen...

    The tweaks to the terms of service will be made in the section titled "Content You Post" and will explicitly exclude user-to-user chat sessions from the privacy rights an AIM user gives up to AOL.

    "We're not making any policy changes. We're making some linguistic changes to clarify certain things and explain it a little better to our users," AOL spokesperson Andrew Weinstein told eWEEK.com.

    The modifications will use similar language from the AIM privacy policy to "make it clear that AOL does not read private user-to-user communications," Weinstein said.


    [...]

    More importantly, Weinstein said a blunt and inelegant line that reads "You waive any right to privacy" will be deleted altogether.

    "That's a phrase that should not have been in that section in the first place. It clearly caused confusion, with good reason," Weinstein conceded.


    [...]

    Justin Uberti, chief architect for AIM, also joined the discussion, admitting the controversial section of the terms of service was "vague" and needed to be reworded.

    Uberti explained on his Weblog that the amount of IM traffic on the AIM network "is on the order of hundreds of gigabytes a day."

    "It would be very costly, and we have no desire to record all IM traffic. We don't do it," Uberti wrote.

    For AIM users who remain distrustful, Uberti pointed out that the application offers Direct IM (aka Send IM Image) and Secure IM in all recent versions.

    "In other words, you can send your IMs in such a way that they never go through our servers, and/or are encrypted with industry-standard SSL and S/MIME technology. I know this since I designed these features. There are no backdoors; I would not have permitted any," Uberti said.
  • by TheFlyingGoat (161967) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @02:00PM (#11945511) Homepage Journal
    Unfortunately, Microsoft has already shown people how to decode [microsoft.com] these messages.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @02:01PM (#11945515)
    They have already proved in court, many many times, that you have no expectation of privacy in such things as email and instant messaging. I'm not sure why were even discussing this.
  • And directly from... (Score:5, Informative)

    by daveschroeder (516195) * on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @02:04PM (#11945543)
    ...Juberti's blog [aol.com] (the chief architect for the AIM service):

    AIM Privacy and Slashdot

    OK, I am getting tired of hearing about how "The new AIM TOS allows AOL to have all rights to anything you say on IM, AOL reads/stores all your IMs, etc."

    I take this kind of personally, because that is not something I would want to be associated with.

    First off, that blurb in the TOS only refers to AIM forum posts, not IMs. I agree that it is vague and should be reworded to be clear.

    Second, the amount of IM traffic is on the order of hundreds of gigabytes a day. It would be very costly, and we have no desire to record all IM traffic. We don't do it.

    Thirdly, if you still don't trust us, we have Direct IM (aka Send IM Image) and Secure IM in all recent versions of the AIM software. In other words, you can send your IMs in such a way that they never go through our servers, and/or are encrypted with industry-standard SSL and S/MIME technology. I know this since I designed these features. There are no backdoors; I would not have permitted any.

    I am saying this as a concerned invidual, and not as a corporate mouthpiece.
  • Re:very costly (Score:2, Informative)

    by TorrentNinja (846388) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @02:42PM (#11945920) Homepage
    Not even 1 million. Think about all that text. I'm sure you could compress the hell out of all that data and you would be able to store it. Why would they store raw data when they could compress it down? I bet they are able to Tap connections and peer into what people are talking about if they have the capability to monitor the raw traffic being sent. If it's an option they have then I'm sure some sysadmin or tech guys is going to be using it.
  • by LakeSolon (699033) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @02:56PM (#11946093) Homepage
    Actually, 'acaben' of MacSlash [slashdot.org] fame was apparently the first one to mention it in this post [benstanfield.com] on his blog. [slashdot.org]

    ~Lake
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @03:06PM (#11946178)
    This really is a non-story, but that doesn't prevent /. from taking credit for effecting change and thus supporting many in the false belief that making some dumbass comment(s) on this forum will create a difference.

    Despite bloggers taking (false) credit for "making" AOL change their TOS, the real credit goes to those few AOL/IM subscribers who took the time to read the new TOS and complain.

    "Trust me"

  • Well (Score:2, Informative)

    by pHatidic (163975) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @03:08PM (#11946204)
    Except for the fact that they are changing their TOS and you are bound to these changes without your consent. Next time they could just as easily add in an evil clause, and if you complain then they can cite your complicity this time around.

    Even though they are on the surface doing something good, it is still setting a bad and dangerous precedent.

  • by acaben (80896) * <bstanfield&gmail,com> on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @03:34PM (#11946458)
    I believe you're suggesting that I'm that "idiot," since I'm the guy who read the Terms of Service on Friday and posted the blog entry that set off this brouhaha.

    While your propensity for name-calling is no doubt unequaled, your ability to state the facts in this case is not so good.

    Every legal analysis I've seen so far from real lawyers (here's one [macslash.org], and here's another [eweek.com].) says that my interpretation of the Terms of Service was correct, and the AOL spokesperson was misleading. So, sorry to inform you that there was, in fact, no misreading. However, I may still be an idiot. The jury's still out. :)

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