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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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  • by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice&gmail,com> on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @02:56PM (#11945470)
    and they fixed. Kudos to AOL for this one. Now, if only they could do more about the spammers on their network...
  • From TFA... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by leonmergen (807379) * <lmergen@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @02:57PM (#11945476) Homepage

    "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.

    Hmmm, is it just me or does this look like making things look better ? From my experience, lawyers usually pay a lot of attention on the things they write, and especially these kind of mistakes are the ones that plainly don't happen in published legal documents...

    ... unless they wanted to trick you into it, ofcourse.

  • For once (Score:2, Insightful)

    by a_greer2005 (863926) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @02:59PM (#11945493)
    The collective voices of thousands of "Little People"(tm) made a differance on a huge company. This is a trend that I would love to see continue accross the board, a large company careing about their customers.
    Props to AOL, looks like I can once again log in and chat without fear of them retaining rights to it.
  • by jcm (4767) * on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @03:01PM (#11945521) Homepage
    Hopefully folks will appreciate the amount of sway that a good argument does have at AOL. If it wasn't for public discussion the TOS probably would not have been changed. But the public discussion happened and there will now be a more specific TOS statements. I wish folks would always give AOL a chance instead of immediately bashing. Was this enough to buy some good will from folks for the future?
  • Re:From TFA... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Elwood P Dowd (16933) <judgmentalist@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @03:04PM (#11945547) Journal
    From my experience, lawyers usually pay a lot of attention on the things they write, and especially these kind of mistakes are the ones that plainly don't happen in published legal documents... ... unless they wanted to trick you into it, ofcourse.
    No, you are full of crap. If a lawyer says, "Sign this document, and we'll execute contract A," and then has you sign a document actually only authorizing contract B, the signed document would be thrown out in court. If the lawyer knew about it, he might be liable, and he might be guilty of fraud.

    Once AOL publically said, "No, we have not and will not read AIM chats," it better have been the truth, otherwise they could get turned inside out in court. No matter what their privacy policy said.
  • by Prince Vegeta SSJ4 (718736) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @03:06PM (#11945558)
    and will explicitly exclude user-to-user chat sessions from the privacy rights an AIM user gives up to AOL

    Was that, 75% of their chat sessions are user--to--server--to--user, which since they did not specifically specify are now exempt from privacy expectations.

    OMG, LOL CUL8R d00d

  • because (Score:4, Insightful)

    by vena (318873) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @03:08PM (#11945580)
    common courtesy isn't always defined by law.
  • Re:From TFA... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 91degrees (207121) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @03:13PM (#11945633) Journal
    It seems that legal and marketing simply didn't talk to each other.

    The legal department wanted to be sure they had the right to do everything they might do, even if they're not remotely likely to do so. Their only concern is that they don't get sued.

    Unfortunately they didn't consider what the response public would be is someone actually read the legalese. Considering that isn;t their job. The public image of AOL is a marketting matter. Not a legal matter.

    As is often the case in large companies, the left hand didn't know what the right hand was doing.
  • by MrLint (519792) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @03:16PM (#11945663) Journal
    No expectation of privacy isnt the same as giving AOL to essentially republish everyone in any for forever.
  • Re:Nice to see (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @03:17PM (#11945668)
    Gmail is indexing private email conversation. And no
    amount of public pressure has caused them to change.

    Big bad boy AOL changes. but "do-no-evil" Google
    is allowed to get away with it.
  • by dinivin (444905) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @03:19PM (#11945686)
    It's a freakin' TV show. A good TV show, but just a TV show. It is not reality, and should not be the basis for any real legal opinion.

    Dinivin
  • very costly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by trb (8509) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @03:26PM (#11945770)
    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.

    Ooh, hundreds of gigabytes a day, it would be very costly to record all that traffic. Gee, Dr. Evil, what does a 100 Gigabyte storage device cost? One Million Dollars?

  • by Polarism (736984) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @04:01PM (#11946137)
    Try again, factor in the costs of running the storage farm, maintainence, keeping the data safe, actually setting up the system to even do the archiving, factor in bandwidth costs that this facility would suck down, not to mention the costs of even having the facility.

    You just didn't even begin to factor in anything but the pure cost of 1 gigabyte in some situations, a 500 gig drive is not $500.
  • by Transcendent (204992) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @04:14PM (#11946258)
    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.

    In an earlier slashdot article (too lazy to get the link), it was mentioned that the terms of service was misinterpreted by someone, and that it was *never implied* that private IM conversations were to be snooped upon, saved, or so forth.

    We never lost out privacy, some idiot just misread it and this most recent change is in an attempt to make it "idiot-proof" for the future.
  • shut up already (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Turn-X Alphonse (789240) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @04:29PM (#11946394) Journal
    So many people are going "YAY THE LITTLE GUY WON!", well no the little guy didn't do ANYTHING! AOL was never going to read how little janey is sleeping with Jamie today but Dave tomorrow. They couldn't careless what crap you put in an IM as long as you click an ad once in a while.

    Changing a couple of words (AKA addding "oh the forums") doesn't mean "the little guy won". It means AOL spend a tiny amount of money to correct an error they made everyone made a song and dance about.

    Well done little guy you cost AOL about 0.00001% of their money on a lawyer! Time to take down Microsoft now!
  • by Max Nugget (581772) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @11:16PM (#11950135)
    We never lost out privacy, some idiot just misread it and this most recent change is in an attempt to make it "idiot-proof" for the future.

    Wrong. The language of the original legal disclaimer effectively gives AOL access and ownership of all IM communications. Your comment seems to suggest that only an "idiot" would believe that AOL logs, or would one day log, IM communications, which is a naiive point of view. Or to put that another way, you are suggesting that "only an idiot would believe that Company X would actually do what Company X's contract says it's allowed to do."

    If you want to trust the ethical integrity of a giant corporation, go for it. For the rest of us, we find it more assuring to know that said giant corporation is legally disallowed from doing something completely unethical, rather than leaving it at "we'll give you the rights to do something completely unethical, but we know you'd never actually do it." Why should we be sympathetic of their legal department's desire to keep their options open?

    Also -- and I'm not really sure how this works from a legality standpoint -- if AOL's contract allows them to access and take ownersihp of IM communications, that might make it more likely that law enforcement or courts could require AOL to monitor specific IM communications. And if AOL logs or ever starts logging all IM communcations (which, as another poster pointed out, would not be an especially costly endeavor), courts and law enforcement might be able to request chat logs from AOL at some time in the future. Whether or not AOL's privacy policies affect the feasibility of such activities, though, I'm not sure about.

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