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America Online Privacy Your Rights Online

AIM's New Terms Of Service 689

acaben writes "AOL has posted new terms of service for AIM, that include the right for AOL to use anything and everything you send through AIM in any way they see fit, without informing you. A sample passage: '...by posting Content on an AIM Product, you grant AOL, its parent, affiliates, subsidiaries, assigns, agents and licensees the irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide right to reproduce, display, perform, distribute, adapt and promote this Content in any medium. You waive any right to privacy.'"
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AIM's New Terms Of Service

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  • Fine, then (Score:5, Funny)

    by cerberus4696 ( 765520 ) on Saturday March 12, 2005 @01:13AM (#11917354)
    I suppose if they want the rights to some irreversibly encrypted garbage, they can go right ahead.
    • Ah, someone out there is finally using the gaim encryption plugin. Good job!

      (Normal AIM traffic is plaintext)
      • Re:Fine, then (Score:2, Informative)

        Also, if you and your chat partner are both using Trillian, you have the option of turning on 128-bit encryption.
    • Re:Fine, then (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DoraLives ( 622001 ) on Saturday March 12, 2005 @01:18AM (#11917404)
      I suppose if they want the rights to some irreversibly encrypted garbage, they can go right head.

      Absolutely. Go right ahead and plan on your average AOL user getting on board the clue train and encrypting their messages. Oh yeah. Really.

      • by MagicDude ( 727944 ) on Saturday March 12, 2005 @02:27AM (#11917771)
        AOL users already incrypt all their transmissions. Take the simple sentence "Hey dude. What are you doing later? I was thinking we should go to the mall." which becomes incrypted as:

        HEY DUDE11!!!1 OMG WUT R U DONG L8R????!?? LOL I WAS THINKNG W3 SHUD GO 2 DA MAL!!1!1!11 WTF LOL

        Damned if I can decrypt that
    • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Saturday March 12, 2005 @01:26AM (#11917456) Homepage Journal
      I suppose if they want the rights to some irreversibly encrypted garbage, they can go right ahead.

      UUEncode Windows and send it to yourself over AIM.

      Let Microsoft and AOL club each other to death :-)

    • by EvanED ( 569694 ) <evanedNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday March 12, 2005 @01:27AM (#11917457)
      99% of what goes over AIM is garbage anyway.

      (I know, I produce a lot of it)
    • Re:Fine, then (Score:3, Informative)

      by LnxAddct ( 679316 )
      Simple solution: http://silcnet.org/
      Regards,
      Steve
    • Posts - not IM (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cgenman ( 325138 ) on Saturday March 12, 2005 @03:58AM (#11918103) Homepage
      You encrypt your posts? How will people read them?

      I hate to sound like an AOL sympathizer, but the TOS specifically refers to "posts." Besides IM, AIM also provides message board services (or so I'm told by people who don't use Trillian, Gaim, or Psi).

      Does "posts" refer to regular IM usage? AOL implies not, referring to "message board posts, chat participation, and homepages."

      My reading of this is that AOL retains usage rights to everything you post on their static forums... forums which basically anyone can access. While I would feel better if this were not the case, that is a good bit better than AOL reading the I.M.'s you send to your co-workers.

      It sounds like CYA to me. As if AOL were giving themselves the right to decide to add access to the chat forums online or through AOL's proprietary service. It's the kind of CYA that inspired them to prohibit people from using AIM "while driving, operating hazardous equipment, or engaging in other forms of hazardous activities."

      On the other hand, go ahead and tell everyone on AIM about the TOS, without explaining that it's only posts. Then try to switch everyone over to Jabber. Please. The whole I.M. universe right now is about as convienient as sending E-mails from CompuServe to AOL in 1992.

      • Re:Posts - not IM (Score:3, Informative)

        by MP3Chuck ( 652277 )
        Yes, posts refers to regular IM usage... from the TOS:

        " AIM Products
        For purposes of these Terms of Service, the term "AIM Products" shall mean AIM software (whether preinstalled, on a medium or offered by download), AIM services, AIM websites (including, without limitation, AIM.COM and AIMTODAY.COM) and all other software, features, tools, web sites and services provided by or through AIM from America Online, Inc. and its business divisions (e.g., Netscape) (collectively "AOL") and AOL's third-party ve
  • In response... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Azh Nazg ( 826118 )
    In response, I have to say this: GPG goes over AIM very well. ;-)
    • Re:In response... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mwilliamson ( 672411 ) on Saturday March 12, 2005 @01:28AM (#11917466) Homepage Journal
      gaim-encryption.sourceforge.net [sourceforge.net] provides an easy-to-use wrapper for NSS. It's available for both *nix and win32 and works quite well. I like the fact they didn't try to re-implement the crypto, but rather use someone else's proper (and well reviewed) implementation.

      Folks, it is time to start putting your letters in an envelope. You can no longer trust the letter carrier to protect your privacy. Envelopes are cheap...so start using them.

  • by Kralizec ( 627733 )
    Does this apply to people like me who use Gaim? If I never have to click on anything to accept the terms of service, do I still have to abide by the terms of service simply because I'm using their services?
  • I use Trillian... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tekiegreg ( 674773 ) * <tekieg1-slashdot@yahoo.com> on Saturday March 12, 2005 @01:14AM (#11917366) Homepage Journal
    and any information I care about goes through their SecureIM service.

    So to AOL: I say this much, exploit fjkd;arjaiwor398u233209u''rju98e32 any way you want guys!
  • I'm just guessing, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Duhavid ( 677874 ) on Saturday March 12, 2005 @01:14AM (#11917368)
    I'm just guessing, but I think they dont want customers. I'm not sending much thru AIM with those terms of Service.

    Also, what about users of GAIM, et al, that havent agreed to those terms? Can they enforce this there?
    • Sadly I don't think most users care. Sure people on Slashdot is going to think twice before using AIM, but how many ordinary people will know about this? Even if people did know, I doubt that most of them will see to problem.

      People are a sheep.
  • All this means... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheSpoom ( 715771 ) * <.ten.00mrebu. .ta. .todhsals.> on Saturday March 12, 2005 @01:14AM (#11917369) Homepage Journal
    ...Is that any smart business will not send proprietary information through AIM.

    Of course, I say any smart business because I know some dumb ones will. Doesn't Microsoft have a similar policy with Hotmail?

    I also really doubt if this were ever tested in court that it would stand. This is evil, but about what I'd expect from AOL.
    • There have been numerous stories here about MS's license on various products. In the end, most of them simply say that the system belongs to MS. That includes not only the software, but anything that is done on the system. i.e. all your base belong to us. AOL just simply moved to a more MS style license because not enough ppl punished MS for their garbage.
  • Incase you forgot, AIM has built in encryption...just create the keys.
  • I wonder whether this would even be legal.
  • trillian, gaim, etc

    if you really want to fuck with the yellow child molesting bastards at AOL, encrypt all your im traffic.

    Best of all, give the shitheads a giant middle finger and stop using the AIM network period.
  • by Mad Merlin ( 837387 ) on Saturday March 12, 2005 @01:16AM (#11917386) Homepage
    Perhaps we're about to see AOL/Time Warner roll out a new tv show... When 12 year old girls chat to each other over AIM - Uncut and Raw!
  • People are, by and large, not going to read this slop and/or care.

    Those who do read it, and who do raise a fuss, are going to be met with very little interest ("You don't like it? Use another service.") But I hope, and I foresee, that such a broad and far-reaching "license agreement" gets shot apart in court one of these days. There are just too many possibilities for abuse - imagine if your phone company decided to record and use whatever you said on the line in whatever way they wished, without your

  • by zalas ( 682627 ) on Saturday March 12, 2005 @01:17AM (#11917393) Homepage
    I dunno, but that sounds like typical terms of service for something like Instant Messenger, and doesn't sound very surprising or new at all. Granted, I haven't thoroughly read their ToS before... They're supposedly used so that they can distribute your messages (IMs) without any possibility of "infringement," but who knows?
  • In addition to my original post linked in the write up here, I've written a follow up [benstanfield.com] pointing out the insanity that AIM's business service AIM@Work uses the same Terms of Service, while expecting businesses to uses it for their internal messaging system.
  • Sheer volume (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gotr00t ( 563828 ) on Saturday March 12, 2005 @01:20AM (#11917416) Journal
    Even though it looks pretty bad, just remember that the service is so popular that the chances any conversation would acutally be used in any meaningful way by a third party would be about as small as they are now.
    • Re:Sheer volume (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Deep Fried Geekboy ( 807607 ) on Saturday March 12, 2005 @01:31AM (#11917484)
      You're kidding, right?

      You can bet everything you own that AOL archive every message that's routed through their system. Their new TOS means that when Government Agency X comes a-knockin' demanding all the messages User Y posted in the last three years, they can simply turn over the records without having to go through all that annoying stuff of warrants, sub-poenas and so on.

      In fact, it doesn't even have to be Govt Agency X. It can be anyone. If they want to let them search the archive, they can.
    • Re:Sheer volume (Score:3, Informative)

      by syukton ( 256348 ) *
      you've never used grep, have you?

      Grepping when you don't have a hard disk because everything is solid state is much, much faster than you might think. Grepping through billions of lines of text for "bomb" is pretty goddamned simple: grep -i "bomb" *.log

      Sheer volume means nothing to anybody who uses computing clusters in their corporate strategy; they have what it takes to parse that volume, and then some.
      • Re:Sheer volume (Score:5, Interesting)

        by pchan- ( 118053 ) on Saturday March 12, 2005 @03:10AM (#11917945) Journal
        Okay, nobody seems to get the point of this change, so let me spell it out for you:

        ADVERTISING

        They don't care about reading what 12 year olds gossip about, and they don't care about finding criminals, terrorists, or anyone else. They care about *making money* by selling targeted ads to you, and they will figure out what you like by parsing context out of your chat logs. Y'know, like Google does with Gmail and Google Groups. The TOS let them do whatever they want with the data so they can store it, mine it, and sell the results anytime they feel like with no consequences.
        • Your Intellectual Property Rights. Google does not claim any ownership in any of the content, including any text, data, information, images, photographs, music, sound, video, or other material, that you upload, transmit or store in your Gmail account. We will not use any of your content for any purpose except to provide you with the Service.

          That comes from the gmail terms of use. What you say in gmail belongs to you. Sure they can parse it and toss in their adds on the side and have to release it under

  • by Fourmica ( 789657 ) on Saturday March 12, 2005 @01:23AM (#11917432)
    1. Trillian. [trillian.cc] SecureIM, but Windows only.
    2. SILC. [silcnet.org] Open encryption standard, many *nix ports.
    3. JohnyTech. [johnytech.com] Windows encryption for a bunch of different IM protocols.
    That ought to get you started.
    • The official AIM client supports encryption via client-side certificates, too. Options -> Preferences -> Security.

      I have a self-signed cert generated in OpenSSL.

      Instructions here. [berkeley.edu]
    • You forgot:

      0. GAIM [sf.net] with GAIM Encryption [sf.net] - Multiprotocol, multiplatform IM client and its encryption module that encrypts any IM protocol you use

      It also maintains the same look and feel across Windows and Linux and is a key component when helping individuals and organizations get off Windows desktops. It may the closest thing I've seen to cross-platform OSS perfection.

      My current customer (~6000 employees) already uses Thunderbird and Firefox, and they are begging to get onto Linux desktops. I introduced t
  • In Plain English (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lax-goalie ( 730970 ) on Saturday March 12, 2005 @01:26AM (#11917451)
    "We retain the right to spy on you, profit from any good ideas you have, and tell your wife about your girlfriend."

    I'm just guessing, but I'll bet no one thought to run that last part past their management team...
  • by mike_sucks ( 55259 ) on Saturday March 12, 2005 @01:29AM (#11917475) Homepage
    Why aren't you using Jabber [jabber.org] instead?

    It's Free Software, it's non-evil and there are clients for every platform out there.

    You can even use it for cool stuff like IM'ing system alerts to you, as a cheap replacement for SMS on mobile phones (AUD$0.02 vs AUD$0.25) and to publish and subscribe to news feeds.
  • by Eric_Cartman_South_P ( 594330 ) on Saturday March 12, 2005 @01:31AM (#11917481)
    They could scrub all the text for phrases like "I have a great idea" and then human parse them for interesting bits. Lots of false hits, but some gold in the rough to take, steal, and go to market first with the ideas? Who knows. Comb for ideas, sell to other companies and VC firms. Skim the filthy froth of the weary intarweb and sell it!
  • Hmm.. Contradiction? (Score:4, Informative)

    by VexSky ( 811169 ) on Saturday March 12, 2005 @01:36AM (#11917520)
    The new statement, if taken in a "harmful" manner, seems to contradict their privacy policy, unless they intend to not "read" it, but simply mangle it, compile it, stamp it, then mail it to anyone they please....

    The snippet from the privacy policy (here [aim.com]) with emphasis from me:
    AOL does not read your private online communications when you use any of the communication tools offered as AIM Products. If, however, you use these tools to disclose information about yourself publicly (for example, in chat rooms or online message boards made available by AIM), other online users may obtain access to any information you provide.
  • by Esion Modnar ( 632431 ) on Saturday March 12, 2005 @01:48AM (#11917592)
    So they could perform your AIM chat session in Times Square, or maybe even... Your AIM Chat Session! On Ice!

    Hey, how about getting that guy, whathisname, the one did that thing in Central Park, to interpret your chat session in plastic sheeting or whatever, like a big condom over the Empire State.

    Free association really sometimes scares me...

  • It's time for Jabber (Score:4, Informative)

    by kg4eyf ( 232264 ) on Saturday March 12, 2005 @01:50AM (#11917604) Homepage
    This is precisely one of the reasons everyone should start paying attention to the XMPP standard. We shouldn't be trusting a corporate entity and closed standards with what has become a very viable form of internet communication. Just like the standards we use for http, ftp, ssh, and everything else, we all need to start supporting the standards for Instant Messaging too. It's time to get everyone we know off of AIM. And start showing them jabber. And those of us with programming skills need to contribute to the servers and clients to make the better and well known.
  • New? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Mr.Progressive ( 812475 ) on Saturday March 12, 2005 @01:51AM (#11917613)
    Seeing as how these terms were introduced on February 5, 2004, I wouldn't exactly call them "new." In fact, I had already come across these ridiculous terms a few months ago in one of my first forays into the world of 'reading the licensing agreement.' I was a little taken aback at first, but then I realized that most of what I, and most people, say over IM is complete garbage anyway and probably hardly worth the expense of any kind of data mining. Plus, if I ever really wanted to send sensitive information, I'd find a better way. So essentially, I think, this is a non-issue. But I could be wrong.
  • Put another way... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt.nerdflat@com> on Saturday March 12, 2005 @01:52AM (#11917618) Journal
    How would people feel if their phone company came out with a new terms of service which said that anything which was spoken over a phone on one of their lines becomes the property of the phone company itself and may be reproduced, rebroadcast, that its users forfeit all rights to privacy, etc...?
  • by imr ( 106517 ) on Saturday March 12, 2005 @02:01AM (#11917667)
    and probably elsewhere.
  • by tekrat ( 242117 ) on Saturday March 12, 2005 @04:01AM (#11918110) Homepage Journal
    Isn't AOL considered a "Common Carrier" and therefore immune from prosecution because they claimed that they do not, will not and cannot monitor the content going through their "wires". This was back in the days when ISPs were getting shut down if they allowed child porn through their servers or something like that -- and the bill came through that said that ISPs were responsible for the content of their users, unless they were Common Carriers such as AT&T and AOL (and any other big company that could afford to buy a Senator).

    Now here comes along AOL saying that they WILL monitor and so, I have to ask, if we send child porn through IM, doesn't this mean that if AOL lets it go through, AOL can be taken down for allowing trafficing of child porn because they have given up their common carrier status?

  • Great! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Eminence ( 225397 ) <akbrandt.gmail@com> on Saturday March 12, 2005 @05:54AM (#11918399) Homepage
    At least they are honest about it, unlike some other services like, say, short messages on cellphones which give you an illusion of privacy. Face it - we are in an era when to have any privacy you have to actively protect it and sometimes it might be even illegal (example - encryption in France).
  • by joeykiller ( 119489 ) on Saturday March 12, 2005 @07:24AM (#11918617) Journal
    Guys, I'm amazed at how calmly you're discussing this issue! Most of you're discussing workarounds -- e.g. how to use gpg or secure-im to avoid being eavesdropped on.

    In my opinion the real issue is that the statement "You waive any right to privacy" may be the most evil statement in any EULA ever. Shouldn't these six words alone cause an outrage beyond belief here?
  • by jayloden ( 806185 ) on Saturday March 12, 2005 @08:25AM (#11918776)
    "AOL does not read your private online communications when you use any of the communication tools offered as AIM Products. If, however, you use these tools to disclose information about yourself publicly (for example, in chat rooms or online message boards made available by AIM), other online users may obtain access to any information you provide.

    Your AIM information, including the contents of your online communications, may be accessed and disclosed in response to legal process (for example, a court order, search warrant or subpoena), or in other circumstances in which AOL has a good faith belief that AIM or AOL are being used for unlawful purposes. AOL may also access or disclose your AIM information when necessary to protect the rights or property of AIM or AOL, or in special cases such as a threat to your safety or that of others.
    "

    The content referred to in the Privacy Policy is for posts in AIM forums and message boards and such, and the point of all that crap in the TOS is so that AOL has the legal right to copy and display anything you put in the forum worldwide, for as long as the forum/website exists, and you can't in any way sue them over something you post in the forum. It's NOT saying "we will read your IMs and reproduce and use them however we want". Please mod this up so at least some people read it and stop freaking out and spreading FUD unneccessarily.

    -Jay

  • 6079SmithW: Do you remember the thrush that sang to us, that first day, at the edge of the wood?
    AntiSexJulia: He wasn't singing to us. He was singing to please himself. Not even that. He was just singing.
    6079SmithW: We are the dead.
    AntiSexJulia: LOL! We are the dead.
    AOL System Msg: You are the dead.

    ~Philly
  • by smchris ( 464899 ) on Saturday March 12, 2005 @11:10AM (#11919485)
    you grant AOL, its parent, affiliates, subsidiaries, assigns, agents and licensees the irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide right to reproduce, display, perform, distribute, adapt and promote this Content in any medium. You waive any right to privacy.'"

    Where does it say they assert _sole_ownership_ of your content? Aren't they, in effect, pressing you to GPL of your content?

    How progressive of AOL.

  • get a grip... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by drew ( 2081 ) on Saturday March 12, 2005 @11:28AM (#11919576) Homepage
    so, out of some 200 comments rated 2 or higher as i write this (not counting one comment i made in the bottom of some thread somewhere) it seems that almost everyone here has missed the point....

    a) only 2 people have mentioned that these terms of service are over a year old.

    b) only 2 people have pointed out that these terms of service apply to posts on message boards and forums, which they reserve the right to replicate, duplicate, etc, and not to instant messages.

    c) no one has pointed out that the vast majority of the messages sent through aim are sent client to client, and never travel through aol's central server, so even if they did reserve the right to use your im's any way they saw fit, and they had the desire to, there's no way that they ever could.

    man, talk about making a mountain out of a molehill. one person yells "0 my g0d. teh AOL r stealing our pr1v4cy!1!!" and the whole army of slashdotters goes running for their tinfoil hats. get a grip people.
  • What TOS? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by frobnoid ( 64717 ) on Saturday March 12, 2005 @01:27PM (#11920255)
    The TOS reads:
    he following terms and conditions apply to all users who either registered for AIM services or downloaded AIM updates or software on or after February 5, 2004.

    Many posts here are talking about using third party encryption tools to circumvent this.

    This new TOS DOES NOT APPLY TO ME (nor to many of you). Why not?
    I didn't agree to their terms of service.
    I didn't sign up after 2/5/2004.
    I don't download AOL's AIM client. I use GAIM exclusively.

    AOL, use the messages I haven't give you rights to, I dare you.

    1. Send interesting messages
    2. Wait until AOL uses one somehow.
    3. Profit.
  • Privacy policy? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SenatorTreason ( 640653 ) <senatortreason@g ... com minus author> on Saturday March 12, 2005 @01:31PM (#11920279)
    In the AIM privacy policy [aim.com]:
    "AOL does not read your private online communications when you use any of the communication tools offered as AIM Products. If, however, you use these tools to disclose information about yourself publicly (for example, in chat rooms or online message boards made available by AIM), other online users may obtain access to any information you provide.


    Your AIM information, including the contents of your online communications, may be accessed and disclosed in response to legal process (for example, a court order, search warrant or subpoena), or in other circumstances in which AOL has a good faith belief that AIM or AOL are being used for unlawful purposes. AOL may also access or disclose your AIM information when necessary to protect the rights or property of AIM or AOL, or in special cases such as a threat to your safety or that of others."
    IANAL...so is this a contradiction?
  • assigning copyright? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by iplayfast ( 166447 ) on Saturday March 12, 2005 @03:30PM (#11921127)
    So if I understand this correctly, AOL is assuming the copyright on anything you post. So if you post something inflammatory, libelous, or hateful, AOL owns it....

    So if someone wants to sue, they sue AOL?

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