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AOL: We're Not Spying on AIM Users

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the but-your-tos-says-you-can dept.

Privacy 310

The Llama King writes "America Online tells the Houston Chronicle's TechBlog that, despite a recent Slashdot posting to the contrary, AOL Instant Messenger's terms of service do not imply that the company has the right to use private IM communications, and the section quoted in the Slashdot article applies only to posts in public forums -- a common provision in most online publishers' terms of service. AOL spokesman Andrew Weinstein says flatly: 'AOL does not read person-to-person communications.' He also says AIM communiques are never stored on AOL's hard drives. The original Slashdot item was linked throughout the blogosphere -- it will be interesting to see if AOL can extinguish this fire." (Read more below.)

It could be that they don't actually take advantage of its terms, but the Terms of Service seem to broadly favor AIM's right to do exactly what they say they're not doing; rather than drawing any distinction between IM services and public forum posts, the actual terms seem clearly to apply to all AIM products. Here's how they put it:

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 vendors.
AOL could probably erase many of the worries about conversation snooping if they would provide a definition of the words "post" and "submit" as used in the following paragraph of their ToS (which says it applies to "any AIM Product"), and explicitly disclaimed an "irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide right to reproduce, display, perform, distribute, adapt and promote" the contents of online conversations:
You may only post Content that you created or which the owner of the Content has given you. You may not post or distribute Content that is illegal or that violates these Terms of Service. By posting or submitting Content on any AIM Product, you represent and warrant that (i) you own all the rights to this Content or are authorized to use and distribute this Content on the AIM Product and (ii) this Content does not and will not infringe any copyright or any other third-party right nor violate any applicable law or regulation.

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Right... (5, Insightful)

maotx (765127) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931246)

"We're not evil. We promise. Trust us. Just because we say we can doesn't mean we will."

I personally use AIM but that doesn't mean that I'm going to trust any communications I want private with a giant multi-billion company.

Re:Right... (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11931268)

What does AOL being a giant multi-billion dollar company have to do with this? If it's private, you don't trust anyone with your communications, except the receiving end. Please don't try to take a cheap jab at a company just for the sake of it being a company. Especially in this case since you've probably been leeching off AOL's servers for years without a second thought (you don't use the official AIM client with the revenue generating ads, do you?)

Re:Right... (5, Interesting)

maotx (765127) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931385)

What does AOL being a giant multi-billion dollar company have to do with this?

Money has a tendancy of corrupting. The bigger a company grows and the longer they are around the more likely you are to hear of some shady [slashdot.org] practices.

Please don't try to take a cheap jab at a company just for the sake of it being a company

I didn't for the sake of it being a company. I did it for the sake that they SAID in their TOS that they can. If AOL was meant to be a secure company then maybe I'd trust my secure communications with them.

Especially in this case since you've probably been leeching off AOL's servers for years without a second thought (you don't use the official AIM client with the revenue generating ads, do you?)

And why would I when they use interfaces [slashdot.org] I don't want and allow [slashdot.org] me to use someone elses for free?

Re:Right... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11931429)

Do you really believe a company that generates billions of dollars is going to assign someone to just read your IMs? Are you afraid of an ad hominem attack or something? It sounds really unreasonable to me.

And it was a jab at a big company. If not, then please route all your private communication through me. I'll give you the details of how to do so. I can assure you, I have very little money, so don't worry about corruption.

Now, if you had said that you don't trust your communications with anyone that doesn't guarantee their security (private, public, whatever), then I'd believe you. But your original post was just a jab a big companies. But kudos to you, you did get modded up for it.

Re:Right... (1)

maotx (765127) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931466)

It was NOT a jab at a big company. Replace AOL with any other company with same features and same TOS and I would have said the same thing.
As for private communication to you, I could care less. I have nothing to say to you that the world can't see.

And no, I don't expect AOL to "assign" someone to read my coversations. However, I'm sure the the 92 million people who had their e-mail addresses sold by an employee didn't have anyone assigned to them too.
It is simple. They said they can. They said they won't. I'm personally not at all really concern as the people that I would have conversations with over AIM I would just simply meet with if I wanted to talk private. However, if I had something to hide I would not rely on AOL's word to keep my information private.

Re:Right... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11931507)

I didn't say "to" me. I said route all your private communication "through" me. Sound unreasonable? Would you really trust anything private to be routed through anyone, big company or not?

And now if this is all about features as you're claiming, then AOL having billions of dollars was an irrelevant point, serving only your own personal agenda.

Oh, and as you so aptly pointed out, one person sold email addresses. That person could have worked for a non-profit. Would you not trust any relief funds or charity drives then? My point is, it wasn't a company policy, and that it happened at AOL was a matter of circumstance, not an attribute of being a big company. (And I'm pretty sure in this case, the guy was corrupted by not having any money but wanting some, rather than by having money to begin with).

Re:Right... (5, Insightful)

the_mad_poster (640772) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931559)

First of all, it's irrelevant whether or not it seems "unreasonable" for AOL to take and redistribute your private information. The point is that they said they're willing to do it, so it should be assumed that they will. If someone points a gun at my head and says "don't worry, it's not loaded", I'm still going to assume it's loaded on the basis that they wouldn't have put a gun to my head if they didn't intend to kill me. People's actions do, indeed, speak louder than words, and AOL has obviously taken the initiative to decide that, if they see fit, they're going to take your communications and resuse them for their own personal gain.

And his complaint targeting a private company was perfectly valid. Corporate entities have shown an amazing lack of common sense, appropriate discretion, self restraint, and moral clarity in the time they've existed. Whereas an individual citizen has little or nothing to gain from spying on your point to point communications, a coporation most certainly has everything to gain. They exist for the sole purpose of making money, and in a capitalist system such as the one AOL exists in, moral fiber has no place. If they intercept valuable data, as a corporation, the only thing stopping them from taking it and using it for their own purposes are laws. They're effectively saying here that they refuse to be bound by any laws, so it can only be assumed that the intent is to glean valuable data and reuse it for, perhaps, marketing research.

The conclusion here is quite simple. If a corporation refuses to be bound to appropriate, decent behavior by the law, it won't act appropriately or decently. Individuals have no such problem in most cases because, unlike corporations, they have little or no need for the sorts of things that would require them to be bound.

His jab at a company for being a company was perfectly legitimate, even if he wasn't sure why that was so.

Re:Right... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11931451)

And why would I when they use interfaces I don't want and allow me to use someone elses for free?


Many possible reasons. Maybe as a sign of good faith, knowing that you're incurring costs for them. Just because you're allowed to do things doesn't mean you should.

NB: I don't use the official AOL client either, but then again, I don't bitch about the free service.

Re:Right... (0, Flamebait)

NoMoreNicksLeft (516230) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931518)

Please don't try to take a cheap jab at a company just for the sake of it being a company.

Why not? It's a pretty good metric of how sleazy an entity is (is it a corporation? check). Is there something special about a company? Even priests bugger little boys, and they're holy men no less. I don't see why an inc. gets the automatic benefit of the doubt. And there certainly are countless examples of of why corporations should get the reverse.

you've probably been leeching off AOL's servers for years without a second thought (you don't use the official AIM client with the revenue generating ads, do you?)

I certainly wouldn't have bought anything. I might even have taken note, and went out of my way to *not* buy anything featured in such an ad. Marketing is evil, it's no longer about informing me that a product I might already have wanted actually exists, it's about trying to manipulate me at some fundamental psychological level. I'm not allowed to use a service they provide for free, unless I submit to brainwashing? No thank you, Mr. Troll.

Re:Right... (0, Flamebait)

CSMastermind (847625) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931331)

It's okay for the US to have WMDs. But if you want to have them we reserve the right to invade you....We're no evil. We promise. Trust us. Just because we say we can doesn't mean we will.

-Sorry about the politics you just reminded me of the Bush admin.-

Now onto the topic at hand....
I never really liked AIM, and this was the final straw, uninstalled it and went to different services. Do you know what this is like?

This is like tapping phones

If I may make an analogy for a second here because I see a parallel between normal communication and internet communitcation. When you send an email it's like sending a letter. If you post of a public message board, you are in essence entering a public discussion. And when you talk over IM it's not really to different from talking on the phone.

Now can you imagine if the phone companies came out with a statement saying they reserve the right to monitor your phone conversations and use them as they see fit? There would be a public outcry. If say to AIM, make the agreement more understandable and less shadey then I'll consider coming back to you.

Re:Right... (1)

BlueCodeWarrior (638065) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931587)

...Does anyone else think we need a new collary to Goodwin's Law [wikipedia.org] ?

I'm not comparing Bush to Hitler, but it seems the same general idea holds true. The longer the discussion, the more likely someone finds some roundabout way of turning it into a jab about Bush.

Just a thought...

Re:Right... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11931453)

The key here is "we promise". Print the press release (if it exists), or print the news article where a senior executive is quoted. Save it in your files.

There is a legal concept known as promissory estoppel. If a party makes a a public admission concerning the interpretation of a contract, then they can be held to that statement even if the contract is ambiguous, so long as you can demonstrate that you RELIED in the statement to guide your conduct.

There are limits to how far this goes - an executive cannot unilaterally void a provision of a contract - but it can be pushed pretty far when the contract is a license that doesn't require a purchase (i.e., additional consideration).

Re:Right... (1)

tehshen (794722) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931459)

I'm [not] going to trust any communications I want private with a giant multi-billion company.

I don't trust a giant multi-billion company to keep my messages secure either, but if there's a large breach of security and someone can see all my messages, I wouldn't really care. My IMs are nothing special; in fact they are boring. If someone is really interested in where my friends and I will meet up for lunch on Sunday, I'd feel pretty important.

If I was sharing bomb-making instructions or something else illegal with my friends, I'd make our own private network and send messages across that.

Re:Right... (1, Insightful)

jrockway (229604) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931533)

Sharing bomb-making instructions isn't illegal. Detonating a bomb in a public place, yes, but knowing how to make one is perfectly legal.

Re:Right... (1)

tehshen (794722) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931635)

Ah, you are right. I was only trying to make an example.

s/bomb-making instructions/child pornography/

Re:Right... (1)

mshiltonj (220311) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931687)

Sharing bomb-making instructions isn't illegal.

I think the Department of Homeland Security calls that "terrorist training."

Somebody knocking at your door?

Re:Right... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11931463)

That's exactly what the British Governement have just said, about locking up 'suspected' terrorists without trial or disclosing the accusation.

But of course, we can trust them...

Re:Right... (4, Informative)

ticklejw (453382) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931572)

I have one word for you. Er... two... they're sorta hyphenated:

gaim-encryption

Of course, this doesn't mean that I agree with or approve of AOL or anything they do... I'm just saying, if you have to use the protocol, it provides a level of protection.

MSN Messenger had similar claim (3, Informative)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931252)

Didn't MSN MEssenger once have a similar claim in its TOS?

I'm sure there was some storm in a teacup around it a while ago.

Re:MSN Messenger had similar claim (5, Informative)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931262)

Hate replying to self, but found an article about it being changed.
here [com.com]

too late.. (5, Insightful)

TheHawke (237817) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931254)

I already uninstalled my AIM and done gone somewhere else with my IMing.

Their PR parrots and Legals should have collaborated BEFORE they opened their big mouths on this matter. Now they are having to play catchup, in a BIG way.

Bad timing aoHell. In this day and age, that kind of legal play can lose you a couple of million users as fast as your CSRs (customer service reps) can field them.

Re:too late.. (0, Redundant)

Flyingcats (867354) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931361)

I already uninstalled my AIM.

Re:too late.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11931813)

hey man, check this [img75.exs.cx] out. no offense

Surprise? (5, Insightful)

mattmentecky (799199) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931255)

Why are people walking around surprised that AOL would, at the very least, not guarantee absolute privacy in conversation?

The best way to deal with this is to always treat any conversation, ESPECIALLY over the internet, and ESPECIALLY on a service like AIM as insecure. Period.

Re:Surprise? (0, Offtopic)

ForestGrump (644805) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931273)

Let me define a few things for you:
Internet: Public network
Slashdot: Private network run by geeks, for geeks.

Anything we say on slashdot is a private mattter. Whew!
Thus, I can say the following words without fear.
Terrorist
Communist
McCarthy
Bush
Dick
Cheney
Kennedy
Assination
Bin Laden
Sadam
Cuba
Fidel Castro

Grump.

Re:Surprise? (1, Funny)

ForestGrump (644805) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931294)

Damnit! who the hell is knocking on my door at 5am?

Re:Surprise? (1)

mo^ (150717) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931490)

Yer just paranoid, the knock at yer door is prolly just "live spam" from adult friend finder..

they scan yer sigs you know..... :P

Re:Surprise? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11931579)

"Assination"? "Sadam"? If I were you, I'd be more worried about the spelling police beating down your door...

Re:Surprise? (1)

PoPRawkZ (694140) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931287)

Parent poster is exactly right. If its not AOL it could be anybody. When you are using AIM you are flinging your messages across the net without any say as to who's hardware is relaying your information. If you are that worried about privacy, AOL is the least of your concerns.

Re:Surprise? (2, Informative)

GreyyGuy (91753) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931634)

The issue isn't privacy. The issue is who owns your ideas. According to AOL's TOS, you give them the right to use your ideas and comments however they want.

Re:Surprise? (5, Insightful)

TheoMurpse (729043) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931288)

There is a difference between what you are saying -- what a person says via AIM is insecure -- and what the terms of service actually allow -- that AOL has the right to go as far as publish your writings in a book if they wanted to.

That is what people are surprised about -- that AOL would have the gall to allow themselves something like that.

Re:Surprise? (0)

mattmentecky (799199) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931642)

Unless you are dictating the sequel to the Davinci Code to your publisher over AIM, given the average level of "literature" of AIM conversations, I don't think you have anything to worry about

Re:Surprise? (4, Insightful)

Twanfox (185252) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931727)

That's pretty dismissive, and an inappropriate way to view their TOS. That's like saying "if you have nothing to hide, you won't mind if we search your home for contraband." "Judging by the quality of items in your home, you won't mind if we steal or break a few of them." It doesn't f'king matter if the quality is good or not, no company should ever say "Hey, something you created, but happen to transmit to someone else over our network... well, that's ours. We get to do whatever we want with it."

What would happen if the phone company did that? How about your ISP for anything you ever sent? Oh, I'm sure that you probably don't mind yourself, as you haven't written anything that's truely astounding to the world of Men. However, it's the rare gems, the potential for abuse, that should be, at all times, limited. The ability to usurp someone else's writings is one such potential that should be curtailed, no matter if it's likely or not.

After all, if it's this today, what will happen tomorrow after we're used to this little abuse?

Re:Surprise? (2, Insightful)

DarkMantle (784415) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931362)

I think it's more the fact that they claim to own your conversations and can do as they wish with it. This implies they may be reading it, or just logging it.

Either way, if i'm sending lyric clips to a friend of mine who lives 100+Km away, I don't want them selling the chorus to someone else.

And to add to that. How many people use an IM program of some sort for work? Should aoHell own their ideas too?

hmmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11931532)

I wonder if things like Trillian's SecureIM would help there...

not using aim myself, just curious..

No fire extinquishing here... (3, Insightful)

Imidazole (775082) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931260)

Everyone and their mother who read that previous Slashdot anti-privacy post will of told ten people. Everyone who reads this one, will probably forget about it in ten minutes and revert back to thinking AOL is logging all of your chats. Damage is done.

Re:No fire extinquishing here... (-1, Troll)

krymsin01 (700838) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931278)

AOL, CIA, NSA, what's the difference?

Re:No fire extinquishing here... (4, Interesting)

AllUsernamesAreGone (688381) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931349)

Well, since you ask...

The CIA and NSA are answerable to the government and, in theory, the people. AOL is answerable to its shareholders. The CIA and NSA will do what is necessary to carry out their mandate within the legal boundaries the government provides, AOL will do everything it can get away with to make money.

Quite frankly, I'd sooner trust the CIA and NSA and I'm a tinfoil hatter.

Meme killin' time (5, Informative)

Catbeller (118204) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931784)

"AOL is answerable to its shareholders. "

And to the law, and the people of the United States throught their elected representatives.

Corporations are not nations, immune from all considerations other than profit. They are entities licensed to exist by the people of the U.S. and other nations, for the benefit of all. They are our servants, we are not theirs.

WILL HAVE! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11931677)

Everyone and their mother who read that previous Slashdot anti-privacy post will of told ten people
It's will have
How the hell can someone confuse of with have?
Insightful my ass. He should have received "-1 atrocious grammar".

Maybe there should be an edit... (2, Interesting)

lotussuper7 (134496) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931261)

Maybe, CowboyNeal (who posted the original) would be nice enough to go back and put an Update at the FRONT of the old story, as an act of good faith and fair reporting. :-)

Re:Maybe there should be an edit... (3, Insightful)

Jussi K. Kojootti (646145) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931355)

I don't see the need for an update. Their TOS still says what it said back then, and CowboyNeal didn't claim they actually had a habit of monitoring AIM messages.

The fact that they now say they're not monitoring, does not covince me that the TOS weren't intentionally vague.

Re:Maybe there should be an edit... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11931452)

Maybe, CowboyNeal (who posted the original) would be nice enough to go back and put an Update at the FRONT of the old story, as an act of good faith and fair reporting. :-)

Why? Why the fuck should he? AOL might have rushed out a panicked press release saying that it only applies to posts in their forums, but the fucking licence hasn't changed. The licence still makes no distinction. This is just PR hand waving in the hope that most people will swallow the bullshit and forget about the whole issue.

I would like to state that the text above in no way constitutes a defence of the Slashdot editors who I still continue to see as a bunch of drooling fucktards.

RTFM (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11931263)

Once again a big hoopla is created over a bunch of Slashdot idiots NOT READING THE FAWKING ARTICLE or doing anything other than shallow psuedo-research!

Of course, if it's on SlashDot, it must be true!

bah (1)

genrader (563784) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931264)

Just when I was getting used to DeadAIM's logging after a couple of years, AOL has to go do something like this. Does anyone know if GAIM logs your aim conversations? I am going to switch to something with encryption.

Re:bah (4, Informative)

TheoMurpse (729043) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931303)

Yes, GAIM does log if you want it too. I live in Texas, where logging only requires one-party consent, and thus I log every conversation I have, then manually delete the ones I don't want (spambots, etc).

http://gaim.sf.net/ [sf.net] is the GAIM site, so you don't have to go looking for it later.

Re:bah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11931649)

http://gaim-encryption.sourceforge.net/

from the previous article's comments, gaim with encryption

Re:bah (3, Insightful)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931314)

Eh? Encryption isn't the solution to end users logging conversatations in their IM client.
This issue relates to the main central servers eavesdropping on EVERYONEs conversations.

Encrypting the conversation should prevent eavesdropping on route, but won't prevent logging in the client.

Re:bah (3, Insightful)

mattyrobinson69 (751521) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931432)

in gaim encryption is done client>client, the server doesn't get anything readable because the protocol doesn't support it.

Lawyers (5, Insightful)

MagPulse (316) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931265)

This is another case of agreements being way beyond what a company needs, but lawyers saying "well what about this one bizarre case that might happen once in a hundred years where you might want to use this clause?" So the company makes an agreement like this one, not counting on geeks like us to actually read it and cause trouble.

Re:Lawyers (1)

redelm (54142) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931781)

Precisely -- ads I think you've nailed it. AOL puts out advertising, and probably would like to show how people use their services. They needs publication rights for this. Their ad copy writers must be really lame. AOL'd do better hiring better writers and putting in a disclaimer -- "simulated conversation" to reassure customers of their privacy. Snooping messages (beyond netadmin) may be against state law.

Companies have no morals (2, Insightful)

v1 (525388) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931266)

Companies exist only to enrichen their owners and shareholders. All decisions are based on this one fundamental truth.

If they have the authority to do something, and it becomes in the company's best interest to do it, they will do it, without hesitation.

Translating what they are saying now, it just means "it's not currently in AOL's overall best interest to monitor instant messaging traffic, so right now we're (probably) not doing it. But we can change our minds at any time, without notice."

Re:Companies have no morals (2, Insightful)

Tim C (15259) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931580)

If they have the authority to do something, and it becomes in the company's best interest to do it, they will do it, without hesitation.

Never forget that companies are made up of people. While I agree that if it is in a company's interest to do something and they are able to, they will, don't think that they'll do it "without hesitation". The person making the decision may well hesitate; the people implementing it may well hesitate; but ultimately it'll happen, I agree with that.

i like being spyed on (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11931267)

i like to live dangerously

(parody of their stupid commercials)

Storage (4, Funny)

CleverNickedName (644160) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931269)

It really wouldn't take much to store all AIM communiqués.
I'm sure there's a clever compression tool out there which can take advantage of common data such as "ME TOO!" and "I'M OFF TO MASTURBATE. BRB."

Everything being in uppercase helps too.

Re:Storage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11931399)

Come now.. As an AOL user, your use of punctuation and correct spelling/grammer puts me to shame...

Re:Storage (0)

CleverNickedName (644160) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931407)

YOUR WRIGHT. MY BAD!

Answer (0, Troll)

Pan T. Hose (707794) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931280)

Just use GAIM [sourceforge.net] (available on Windows, Linux et al). That way you won't have to accept AIM EULA which reserves the right to change the conditions without notice so it doesn't really matter that they cannot spy on you today if you can never be sure what they add to the TOS tommorow. Don't use their software, don't accept their EULA. As a side effect have no intrusive advertisements and gain real network- and OS-independence. Problem solved.

Re:Answer (2, Informative)

krymsin01 (700838) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931297)

Don't forget to not use their servers as well. Oh wait, then you aren't using AIM.

Re:Answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11931307)

You don't have to agree with any terms when you are using someone's server, as long as you are not doing anything illegal. Do you also have to agree with some terms when you send an email? No.

Re:Answer (1, Redundant)

v1 (525388) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931342)

Doesn't GAIM use AOL user IDs? You have to click through agreements to get an AIM ID don't you?

Re:Answer (2, Informative)

jgoguen (840059) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931562)

Yes, you still need an AIM ID. Which involves going onto their website, which is defined in the TOS as being an AIM Product. And if you somehow manage to get around that, you're still using their servers, so you're *still* using an AIM Product. If you look, you accept the TOS just by using any AIM Product, so just by going to their website you're expressing your acceptance of their TOS.

Re:Answer (2, Interesting)

emilymildew (646109) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931595)

I wonder - what about people using .mac accounts on iChat? Do they have to click through AOL agreements to get to that point?

(I know that isn't an option for everyone, but it is something to consider.)

Re:Answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11931439)

available on Windows, Linux et al

Actually, available on Windows, Linkus, thats all No OS X version.

I know, the source code is there, but I asume if a binary was easily compilable it would already be there for download.

Re:Answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11931457)

It compiles on Mac, Solaris, FreeBSD and OpenBSD (I didn't check NetBSD so I'm not saying just BSD). Have you even tried it?

The TOS is a CYA (4, Informative)

91degrees (207121) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931283)

AOl probably has no intention of doing what they've demanded the rights to. It's prbably illegal anyway whatever the customer agrees to. What they do want is sufficient legal protection that they can avoid any spurious legal challenges that people might beempted to do based on the basic functionality of the system (including logging, temporary storage, occasional viewing of private messages during maintainance etc.)

"Free" not as in Beer (4, Insightful)

Fox_1 (128616) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931285)

Lets be honest if the service is free to you in a monetary sense, it's nice to think that there are no other costs to you. I'm not a nut in a shelter somewhere in the tundra - but a little paranoia can be healthy. I have met and worked for enough companies/individuals to know that altruism does not currently stand as the dominate principle in business. (though, evolution of society...OSS...who knows what will happen) It's just common sense to assume that there are hidden strings attached to something given to you for "free" from a corporation (and most individuals, even you grandma). I never buy anything on my Super Saver Card that I don't want the Super Saver Company to know about, and I treat AIM/MSN/Hotmail/Whatever the same way. If I want a private conversation I use something I can control - Point to point with encryption.

AOL cares (2, Funny)

d'oh89 (859382) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931298)

Amercia Online would like you to know that the authors of the recent changes to the Terms of Service have been sacked. We have replaced them with a group of llamas and an unlaiden swallow. Please continue to use our free service and tell all of your friends that it is now safe again to use our software. We promise to only disclose Instant Message logs with a court order. As those are extremely hard to get nowadays (excluding DMCA, Patriot Act, etc.) there should be no need to worry. And please take off your tinfoil hat now.

Sincerely,

Your neighborhood AOL conglomerate

Highly coincidental (3, Interesting)

HiMyNameIsSam (867358) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931304)

When I first read the post regarding the TOS I didn't think too much of it. I just noticed a lot of people getting bent out of shape because they failed to notice it did not apply to instant messages, rather to chat rooms and message board postings. This however did not stop me from griping to many people online about the TOS's blatant disregard for privacy rights. Bla bla bla etc... As of last night my account is blocked and I have no idea why. I am still able to log into my AOL account to check my mail, but instant messaging has been disallowed. I am out of the states right now and in the middle east so tech support (if you would even bother to call it that, as anyone who has called AOL before would likely know how crappy the service is) is somewhat out of the question due to international phone calls being expensive and whatnot. Any suggestions as to how I can figure out what the hell happened?

I use icq... (1)

erinacht (592019) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931315)

Always have, i suppose this aim stuff applies there too now... I understand this if people have AGREED to the use, but I don't remember getting a new TOS sent to me when AOL took over icq

Re:I use icq... (1)

almostmanda (774265) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931548)

There was probably a clause in your original ICQ TOS that said "we reserve the right to change this whenever we want, without notification" or something of the sort.

Re:I use icq... (1)

erinacht (592019) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931582)

of course there was... sigh - To paraphrase Dilbert, we're all Bill Gates towel boys we just don't know it yet!

Re:I use icq... (1)

jgoguen (840059) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931593)

It sure was there, and it's in the AIM TOS too.

Is it possible to delete AIM accounts? (4, Interesting)

fialar (1545) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931318)

I've never been able to find the option to actually -delete- an AIM account. Has anyone else?

Re:Is it possible to delete AIM accounts? (2, Informative)

Gamma_UCF (777510) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931630)

From TFM:

To remove a screen name from the Sign On screen

1. Display the Sign On screen, and select the screen name that you want to delete.

2. Press the Delete key.

Note

- You cannot delete screen names but only remove them from the Sign On screen.

Copyright © 1997-2004, America Online, Inc. All rights reserved.

I believe the rules are the same as AOL members. After a certain period of time of inactivity (about 3-6 months), the screen name will go unassigned, and may be able to be taken by others afterwards.

Re:Is it possible to delete AIM accounts? (1)

fialar (1545) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931719)

3-6 months? I once didn't use my AIM account for 2 years, and signed onto it one day and it still worked, old contacts and all.

I found something in the OSCAR protocol [oilcan.org] with reference to: "Account delete request" and "Account delete reply", but I don't know of any client that makes use of this.

It would be nice to be able to delete AIM accounts off AOL's servers.

How to put the fire out. (2, Insightful)

zotz (3951) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931323)

"The original Slashdot item was linked throughout the blogosphere -- it will be interesting to see if AOL can extinguish this fire."

I would think it would be fairly easy to put out the fire. Instead of making the assurances below in public, put them in the TOS in an invariant section.

"AOL Instant Messenger's terms of service do not imply that the company has the right to use private IM communications, and the section quoted in the Slashdot article applies only to posts in public forums -- a common provision in most online publishers' terms of service. AOL spokesman Andrew Weinstein says flatly: 'AOL does not read person-to-person communications.' He also says AIM communiques are never stored on AOL's hard drives."

all the best,

drew

Re:How to put the fire out. (1)

NardofDoom (821951) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931558)

Well alright then! As long as they *say* they don't read person-to-person communications and they're not stored anywhere, that's good enough for me! Thankfully someone I know from a company I trust has quelled my fears.

</sarcasm>

Kidding me... (5, Interesting)

The-Bus (138060) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931328)

This was already deduced in the original story by this post [slashdot.org] . To wit:

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.


To be fair, Slashdot at least says, on every page, " All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective owners. Comments are owned by the Poster. The Rest © 1997-2005 OSTG."

So, to tie it with a meme:
1. Register Anonymous Coward as your legal name
2. Find all AC posts.
3. ???
4. Profit!

At least it's good to see the "Blogosphere" really pays attention. They don't. Which, really, makes them just like journalists.

*ducks*

Re:Kidding me... (1)

gmcgath (829636) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931659)

The Terms of Service do not define "post" anywhere. In the absence of expert legal advice, it's prudent to assume it applies in the broadest sense. AOL can easily fix the problem by adding a restrictive definition; so far they haven't.

Adding a little more context to the part you quoted, it refers to "any materials you post or make available on or through the AIM Products, including message board posts, chat participation and homepages." I'm inclined to read that as saying that "materials you post" includes "chat participation" as well as "message boards." You could counter that it's drawing a distinction between "posting" and "making available," but at best it's unclear what falls on which side of the distinction.

Re:Kidding me... (1)

Juktar (853134) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931674)

The problem with this is there is no definition of the generic "post". Don't think for one minute if it benefited them, AOL would apply "Post" to IM messages. Here is the real problem: "Although you or the owner of the Content retain ownership of all right, title and interest in Content that you post to any AIM Product, AOL owns all right, title and interest in any compilation, collective work or other derivative work created by AOL using or incorporating this Content. In addition, 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. You waive any right to inspect or approve uses of the Content or to be compensated for any such uses." It is not the privacy issue for me. It is the We and anyone we want to give it to can use your conversation, even profitting from it, without compensation to you. I would not send anything you may care about over their service. I know many programmers that collaberate using IM and they have stopped using AIM, why? Because "Post" can be a generic term in this day and age and they do not want AOL using their code anyway they want to, without compensation at all.

Re:Kidding me... (1)

gmcgath (829636) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931753)

Good point. After making my earlier post, I realized that the statement "You waive any right to privacy" in the TOS weighs heavily against the argument that "to post" means only "to post to a message board."

Useless Paranoia (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11931375)

C'mon, people. AOL has better things to do than monitor people talking to their internet girlfriends. What possible benefit could it serve? I mean really, if you're doing something over AIM where privacy is a serious concern, you're probably not too bright in the first place (and by the way, I'm from your bank - we seem to have lost your account information). What do you thinks gonna happen - someone on AIM mutters the word "ICQ" and instantly hundreds of America OnLine programmers come bursting through your door with free AOL discs?

(insert conspiracy nuts claiming that they can install monitor programs for the FBI/NSA/PETA. Also include the people who will claim that this is the first rights infringement on the path to a corporate controlled world where Pepsi can recruit you into slavery and Bed Bath and Beyond owns your house because you "Just had to have that towel rack")

well (1)

zippo01 (688802) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931380)

Well i use Gaim-Encryption. i wonder is AOL will break my 4096bit Encryption. If they do, they deserve everything they get.

whatever. (2, Insightful)

untaken_name (660789) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931406)

yeah, let's make a big deal of someone reading our IMs but totally forget that email can be read too. Here's an idea...don't write anything online that you wouldn't want publiched. Problem solved.

That said, I doubt AOL employees really care about your fucking IMs.

xXx-@DeathBecomesME@-xXx: LOL
supertard: heh
xXx-@DeathBecomesME@-xXx:dude, did you see that one show? LOL
supertard: yeah lollerz!1

*rolleyes* who fucking cares if they read your chat logs?
It isn't security through obscurity, it's security through absurdity.

Re:whatever. (-1, Offtopic)

Jediman1138 (680354) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931487)

Here's an idea...don't write anything online that you wouldn't want publiched.

Like spelling errors?

Re:whatever. (1, Funny)

untaken_name (660789) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931654)

no, i do those from time to time...just to see who can tell the difference between typos and spelling errors. Better luck next time :)

Re:whatever. (-1, Redundant)

AntiNazi (844331) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931610)

I normally go with the policy of don't write anything that you don't want published, be it online or on hardcopy.

So AOL is officially spyware, right? (2, Funny)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931422)

When will my anti-spyware apps start seeing AIM as spyware, and offering to remove it for me?

Re:So AOL is officially spyware, right? (0)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931529)

Whoever modded me funny, I'm serious. AOL's ToS makes it a very untrustworthy application, and by extension, makes the entire Oscar protocol untrustworthy.

Slashdot.org's TOS are no diff... (2, Insightful)

bstuffer (724771) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931446)

"In each such case, the submitting user grants OSDN the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, transferable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, and display such Content (in whole or part) worldwide and/or to incorporate it in other works in any form, media, or technology now known or later developed, all subject to the terms of any applicable license." - Thus go the TOS of slashdot.org. Surprize, surprize!

I tried to submit this story to ./ sometime back [slashdot.org] but of course, they wont accept it :-)

Thank god (2, Funny)

plastic.person (776892) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931447)

Once again I can whip out my cock and webcam-cyber on AIM with the send images feature. Knowing that some tech in Virginia is watching kinda kills the mood for me. (My penis is camera shy.)

Yeah...right... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11931460)

When I called AOL to cancel my account, I was told that they would never use the information without first informing the user and only if there was some complaint, I had specifically mentioned IMs. Now, how could they use any information if they don't look at person-to-person communications and don't store it?

Too late (2, Informative)

QuietLagoon (813062) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931467)

AOL will have to change the ToS. The cat is out of the bag. Drudge Report is carrying the story as of this morning.

Oh bullshit... (1)

WirelessFreak (245617) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931531)

Howdy all. Let the flames begin! I'd flame myself too!

I made the horrendous mistake of installing AOL over a weekend for their trial so I could quickly download Netscape's installer which I'm ultimately using now. I've canceled my AOL account, cleaned out the registry, set my only T-Bird SMTP server to my site, had it working for a couple of days, etc. Now somehow, AOL (aka "Big Brother) manipulated itself as my sole SMTP server, thus preventing me from sending messages (I can receive all day long).

Now, someone tell ME that AOL isn't taking over PCs. ;-)

Regards,
Kory

Remember, this is Slashdot! (2, Funny)

agraupe (769778) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931535)

It is our job to be completely paranoid about something that most of us probably misunderstand!

I heard someone being paranoid about people intercepting his communications through unshielded telephone lines if Broadband-over-Powerlines was offered. I think we've gone too far. Some paranoia keeps you alert, but you people are running around with a tinfoil hat, just bent on finding a big corporation that you think is trying to screw you. MS, Valve, AIM and so forth. The minute any one of these actually does something to any one of you, I'd be interested to hear about it. Until then, there's no reason to have this hive of paranoia.

Is there a problem? (1)

PseudoThin (864870) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931543)

I have to wonder what people are so concerned about. Unless you are doing something illegal or stupid (like sending your SSN and DOB around) what would it matter if they did this? Does it matter if someone reads your vitally important message about how you kicked ass at the LAN party?

I'm really asking what the concern is, not being a smartass.

Liability,people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11931568)

AOL is not being "nice" by avoiding person-to-person correspondence. They're avoiding liability. Think about how many child predators there are lurking on AOL. If AOL said they had the power to review all person-to-person communications on their service, they could be sued for negligence for failing to detect and prevent illegal activities (like the activites of terrorists and sexual predators). It's much easier for them to turn a blind eye, much like P2P services do with regards to file sharing.

Mass Media picking up the story (1)

jasenj1 (575309) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931617)

On the drive in to work this morning, the local radio duo covered this story in their news segment. It was interesting to hear the radio jocks debating some of the same things being talked about here - Does this really apply to IM? How annoying that it applies retroactively. etc.

- Jasen.

Gaim-Encryption (3, Insightful)

accessdeniednsp (536678) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931770)

Gaim Encryption plugin [sourceforge.net] Use gaim, use plugin. Give friends, etc. an ultimatum. I strongly encourage the use of this in more sensitive environments, especially if you're slinging account numbers around.

This message brought to you by the letter Q and the number 8.
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