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AOL Changing IM Terms of Service 229

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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  • Makes you wonder... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tabkey12 ( 851759 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @02:57PM (#11945481) Homepage
    how the change ever was added in the first place? Overzealous legal department?
  • by SengirV ( 203400 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @02:57PM (#11945482)
    ... But I don't have too many NON user-to-user conversations using IM. So am I free to say and do anything(talking to another on IM that is) without it ever coming back to haunt me?
  • by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @03:11PM (#11945603) Homepage Journal
    I'd already read a number of the stories about this at, and very few of them mention any change to the TOS. Rather, they spin it as a customer "misunderstanding" of AOL's privacy rules. They've said that AOL is merely "clarifying" the rules, with no mention of any changes.

    OTOH, there is now one story listed, from, that uses the word "modify". So maybe the real story will be reported by a few tech news sources, while the general media will report it as a misunderstanding that is being clarified.

  • by xxavierg ( 538582 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @03:23PM (#11945736)
    "AOL has responded to the recent slashdot attention."

    where in the article did it say that slashdot was the motivating force? i read that it was just received a "firestorm of privacy-related criticism". please, this might be a popular site, but don't take credit where none is deserved. especially when the article never mentioned any group in particular. i am sure slashdot was one of MANY groups, organization, sites, etc. that complained. but in no did it change it's policy just because of slashdot...
  • by tji ( 74570 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @03:47PM (#11945966)
    > explicitly exclude user-to-user chat sessions from the privacy rights an AIM user gives up to AOL.

    That's an improvement. But, wouldn't it be better (from a user rights and privacy perspective) to explicitly state the areas they DO take ownership of your data in, rather than only excluding this one area? The default case should be that they don't own your data. With excluding only AIM, they still leave the default case for all other services to be that AOL owns your data.

    It's sort of like opt-in vs. opt-out. I prefer that anyone using my personal information or data be required to get my explicit permission to use it, rather than requiring me to contact each and ask them to not use it.
  • by hca ( 735075 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @03:49PM (#11945999)
    Last summer we reviewed using Yahoo's small business product to host our site, and handle our email, but their TOS had the same boilerplate in it. It required that anything we had on their system -- files, website, emails was available for them to resell or republish as their own content. Obvious non-starter, and our complaint about the issue was ignored so we didn't use the service.
  • by MrDomino ( 799876 ) <> on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @03:59PM (#11946115) Homepage

    I'm actually kind of disappointed by this; the new terms seem more misleading to me than the old. It's important to keep in mind on IM services--and on the Internet in general--that anything you transmit unencrypted can be accessed and read by the general public. Now that AOL has stated that it won't read peoples' IMs, the uninformed masses have had their false sense of privacy restored. What, however, happens when the information stored (but not read) is requested of AOL by subpoena? What if the information is cracked out of the company by a malicious user? What of the several computers that have access to your messages in plain text as they are routed through the Internet?

    The only way to keep your sensitive data and conversations private on the web is to encrypt them []; any statement of privacy over plain-text media is at best erroneous, and at worst dangerously misleading.

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