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AT&T Rewrites Privacy Policy

ScuttleMonkey posted about 8 years ago | from the wow-just-wow dept.

316

VikingThunder writes "The San Francisco Chronicle reports that AT&T has revamped its privacy policy, in an effort to head off future consumer lawsuits, with changes taking effect this Friday. AT&T is introducing a new policy that gives it more 'latitude' when it comes to sharing your browsing history with government agencies. Notable changes include notification that AT&T will track viewing habits of customers of its new video services Homezone and U-Verse, which is forbidden for cable and satellite companies, as well as explicitly stating that the customer's data belongs to the company: 'While your account information may be personal to you, these records constitute business records that are owned by AT&T. As such, AT&T may disclose such records to protect its legitimate business interests, safeguard others, or respond to legal process.'"

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316 comments

It's time to take action. (5, Interesting)

evileyetmc (977519) | about 8 years ago | (#15577449)

Well, I knew it wasn't going to be long before companies decided to openly admit that playing politics was more important than treating their customers right. Agreed that they had been playing politics in the past *cough* Bush's domestic wiretapping *cough*, but only now are they confirming that and trying to save their behinds from lawsuits like the kind the EFF has filed for unwarranted wiretaps.
This is exactly the treachery that leads to companies going under...You f*ck the consumer, you get f*cked right back.

I say call up your local congressman/woman and tell them that you want the Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984 to include provisions for all methods of distributing content, including IPTV. Also explain to them that your privacy is important to you and that you want them to support as many privacy bills as they can.

Of course, if that doesn't work, just ditch AT&T. I know there is enough competition out there to cripple them. Alas, you might end up paying a bit more, but think of it as the price you pay for privacy, and consumer-friendliness.

Re:It's time to take action. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15577481)

why do i get the feeling that evileyetmc's congressman won't be hearing from him? drivel.

Re:It's time to take action. (1)

evileyetmc (977519) | about 8 years ago | (#15577526)

haha...well, I just finished writing my letter, so he'll definitely be hearing it from me. No need to doubt on that front. Besides, I get to sit in on a meeting with him next week, just in case he doesn't get it the first time around.

Re:It's time to take action. (4, Funny)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | about 8 years ago | (#15577690)

well, I just finished writing my letter, so a college temp making $7/hour will definitely be hearing it from me

Fixed.

Re:It's time to take action. (4, Insightful)

bleh-of-the-huns (17740) | about 8 years ago | (#15577483)

Ditching ATT is not so easy, they have a very large infrastructure and massive backbone. There is really no way to avoid using their services, either directly or indirectly. I hate to say this, but the only way to stop this is through gov intervention (I wont say regulation because I have regulation), but there is little way for the avg consumer to impact ATT's pocket book, now if companies (end user ISPs and such) toss ATT, that would definately hurt them.

Re:It's time to take action. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15577538)

I wont say regulation because I have regulation


Glad to hear you are getting your fiber.

Re:It's time to take action. (1)

Dark Paladin (116525) | about 8 years ago | (#15577628)

Better to trial and fail then not try at all, I'd say. At least if you actively work to avoid them, eventually you will at least hurt them financially - which can eventually (hopefully?) lead to someone else with bigger pockets that we can trust finally buying out the backbone.

Re:It's time to take action. (2, Interesting)

Billosaur (927319) | about 8 years ago | (#15577772)

Better to trial and fail then not try at all, I'd say. At least if you actively work to avoid them, eventually you will at least hurt them financially - which can eventually (hopefully?) lead to someone else with bigger pockets that we can trust finally buying out the backbone.

It's not so easy in more rural areas, but I suspect this will give Vonage a hefty boost if enough people get disenfranchised by AT&T over this to make the switch. That's assuming that Vonage can avoid more lawsuits [eweek.com] .

Re:It's time to take action. (1)

Sebastopol (189276) | about 8 years ago | (#15577659)


Here in Sacramento, AT&T is the only phone provider. Isn't that a monopoly?

Re:It's time to take action. (1)

IAmTheDave (746256) | about 8 years ago | (#15577666)

Here in Sacramento, AT&T is the only phone provider.

Feel free to go Vonage, etc.

Who says... (1)

saleenS281 (859657) | about 8 years ago | (#15577683)

Who says he isn't aiming this at them (end user ISP's)? Last I checked the type who read slashdot tend to be the type who at least get a vote as to who their transit is coming from.

Effective tool (-1, Troll)

amightywind (691887) | about 8 years ago | (#15577543)

Agreed that they had been playing politics in the past *cough* Bush's domestic wiretapping *cough*,

The NSA terrorist surveillance program approved by President Bush is an effective tool for law enforcement to identify and break up terrorist activity before it can metastasize again on these shores and cause 9/11 style death and destruction. A large majority of the American electorate approves this action. By all means write to your representative on this issue. That is the American way. Then take your place on the minority side of the issue while President Bush kicks the bloody hell out of radical islam.

Re:Effective tool (3, Insightful)

Tackhead (54550) | about 8 years ago | (#15577619)

> The NSA terrorist surveillance program approved by President Bush is an effective tool for law enforcement to identify and break up terrorist activity before it can metastasize again on these shores and cause 9/11 style death and destruction. A large majority of the American electorate approves this action. By all means write to your representative on this issue. That is the American way. Then take your place on the minority side of the issue while President Bush kicks the bloody hell out of radical islam.

The NSA terrorist surveillance program approved by President Clinton II is an effective tool for law enforcement to identify and break up terrorist activity before it can can metastasize again on these shores and cause Okalahoma-style death and destruction. A large majority of the American electorate approves this action. By all means write to your representative on this issue. That is the American way. Then take your place on the minority side of the issue while President Clinton II thanks your half of the Party for giving her the tools she needs to kick the bloody hell out of the Second Amendment fanatics.

(And after 8 years of Republicans arguing against Stasi-like surveillance of fundie Christian groups, the Democratic wing of the Party will power over to the Republican wing of the Party, and the ratchet having gone another 360 degrees tighter...)

Re:Effective tool (0, Offtopic)

IAmTheDave (746256) | about 8 years ago | (#15577680)

kicks the bloody hell out of radical islam

<offtopic> There sure is a lot of blood... </offtopic>

Re:Effective tool my ass (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15577649)

Pass the Kool-Aid!

You & Bush are traitors!

Bush has subverted the Constitution!

The Only thing upon which his Oath of Office is based.

You sir, are a fascist.

Re:Effective tool (4, Insightful)

evileyetmc (977519) | about 8 years ago | (#15577657)

The NSA terrorist surveillance program approved by President Bush is an effective tool for law enforcement ...


Really? I didn't realize that, since I have not heard of one terrorist activity being prevented by the NSA. After all, what are wiretapped grandmas going to do?

I have no problem with wiretaps, if they are warranted. These days, it is not difficult to get the warrant...you could just show some evidence that the person may be linked to a terrorist organization, and wahlah, you have a warrant. All that I ask is that the get the warrant first, or at least get one period.

Oh, and if you can show me where this wiretapping has been more successful than traditional techniques, I'd be all ears. Until then I will continue to not jump on the 'kill the jihad' bandwagon. This country needs at least a few sane heads.

Re:Effective tool (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15577662)

I would expect more backbone from a poster at /.

Throughout every lie and deception perpetrated by the sitting administration in an "effort" to "improve" the security of this nation, I am reminded of a few little blurbs from Benjamin Franklin:

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety"
"Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor liberty to purchase power"

Can we do the same back to them? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15577563)

We use AT&T to host our datacenter. I bet a lot of other companies (both their customers who are being overcharged, and their competitors) are interested in the price we pay / discounts we were offered. Can I rewrite our privacy policy and publish those?

Re:It's time to take action. (5, Insightful)

harrkev (623093) | about 8 years ago | (#15577710)

Of course, if that doesn't work, just ditch AT&T.
I currently do not use AT&T. However...

Anytime anybody calls me using AT&T, my phone number appears in those records. And since I am not an AT&T customer, I have not agreed to their privacy policy. Is there any legal remedy for this?

Re:It's time to take action. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15577847)

Legal remedy, probably not.

However, they do make throw away phones, which I'm highly considering using once my contract with Cingular is up.

Re:It's time to take action. (2, Insightful)

alshithead (981606) | about 8 years ago | (#15577717)

I think AT&T is just the first domino in line. Ditching them won't do you any good when others will be following. I can certainly see Sprint and Verizon taking advantage of AT&T going first..."hey, we can say everyone is doing it!" "may disclose your information in response to subpoenas, court orders, or other legal process," Nice and broad. I wonder who gets to define "legal process".

Re:It's time to take action. (4, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | about 8 years ago | (#15577738)

First remembet that it is not AT&T but SBC wearing a AT&T suit they bought.

This is typical SBC tactics they have been pulling over the years.... They just thought that by changing their name nobody would notice.

remember when you hear AT&T you are not hearing the AT&T from the past but SBC trying to hide from their reputation.

Re:It's time to take action. (2, Insightful)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about 8 years ago | (#15577783)

you want to talk tech to a congresscritter?

really?

you think ANY of them really understand stuff like 'we' do?

(man! I don't know where to begin with that.)

they understand who pays them the most and who controls the votes. you can't EXPLAIN things to them. you can only wave votes or money in front of them. he with the biggest, wins.

Can we do the same back to them? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15577852)

We use AT&T to host our data center. Can I change our company privacy policy to say that we can publish what we're paying AT&T and some of the deals we've been offered? I know a lot of other AT&T customers who are being overcharged who would love to know what we're paying, and I bet some AT&T competitors would like to know too. I could say this is protecting a vital business interest of ours since some of these people would pay quite a lot for the info.

Re:It's time to take action. (5, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about 8 years ago | (#15577860)

This is exactly the treachery that leads to companies going under...You f*ck the consumer, you get f*cked right back.

Well, it's a nice theory. In practice, it doesn't mean a damned thing. Cranky consumers can't do anything to a company like AT&T, not really.

If you explicitly refuse this new privacy policy, do you really believe that will cause them to purge your records? No, they're gonna retain what they have already even if it violates their previous policy.

What if you can't change? Live in a place where there is exactly one provider of broadband? Think you'll give up your high-speed just to try and punish AT&T? (And if you do, they're gonna keep what they have.)

Now that they've said this, and now that they're gonna track everything, your assent to their privacy policy will become irrelevant.

Since they operate much of the backbone, what is to stop them from passing on information about people with whom they don't actually have a current/past business relationship? Nothing, they'll still be passing on their routing data which covers people who could not possibly have consented to the privacy policy. International data gets routed through AT&Ts trunks.

Hell, I live in a whole different country (Canada), and my cell-phone company (Rogers) is associated with AT&T. Which probably means that some if not all of my own damned information is probably going to flow south of the border. Which fscking Congressman am I going to fskcing contact to complain about this? Oh, wait, that would be absolutely fsking noone, that's who.

Do you think the government is going to legislate/intervene/say anything? They want this kind of things more than ever. If a company makes you sign a contract that says "we can do anything we want", the current administration has only to gain from this. They're more than happy to extend the territoriatility of their laws with little regard -- despite that if any other country tried to extend their laws in the same way, the US would be screaming bloody murder.

AT&T's decision to do this affects way more people than the number of people who are going to be asked to agree to this privacy policy. It's probably going affect me personally, and I don't have a business relationship with them. And probably a whole lot of other people.

Did they revampt the company name? (2, Funny)

ToxikFetus (925966) | about 8 years ago | (#15577461)

Did they also fix the part of the privacy policy to say: "AT&T (a wholly owned subsidiary of the National Security Agency)"

Did you get the memo? (3, Funny)

GonzoTech (613147) | about 8 years ago | (#15577527)

The privacy policy clearly states that the National Security Agency, NSA, is a wholly owned subsidiary of AT&T.

Any teeth to these? (3, Insightful)

dr_dank (472072) | about 8 years ago | (#15577467)

Do privacy polices have any real legal meaning to them? Companies write them, I don't think they'll punish themselves for violating them.

Re:Any teeth to these? (4, Insightful)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | about 8 years ago | (#15577499)

No, a company will most likely not punish themselves for violating their privacy policy. However, my understanding is that they do constitute legally binding agreements with regards to what they do with your information. If the company is found to have violated the agreement that was presented to you, then you do have legal grounds to pursue them for damages. Of course, IANAL, so the preceding may be completely wrong.

Furthermore (4, Insightful)

aepervius (535155) | about 8 years ago | (#15577583)

Do you know many legal agreement between two private party, and which can be changed at any time by one party, even absolving this party from any previous legal agreemeent with the other party, without involving this second party ? Me neither.

a big BEND OVER to any percieved competitors (5, Funny)

Thud457 (234763) | about 8 years ago | (#15577703)

"I have changed the agreement. Pray I don't change it further."

Re:Any teeth to these? (4, Informative)

qbzzt (11136) | about 8 years ago | (#15577512)

The privacy policy is part of the contract. A company that violated its privacy policy, in a way that could be proven at court, could be sued. It's not a very strong guarantee (guess who can afford the better lawyers), but it's something.

Re:Any teeth to these? (3, Informative)

AuMatar (183847) | about 8 years ago | (#15577557)

Any policy they can change at will without requiring you to sign an greement has no binding force. At best, you could sue for misrepresentation if they break it. Its definitely not breach of contract.

Re:Any teeth to these? (1)

qbzzt (11136) | about 8 years ago | (#15577615)

I stand corrected. It's still a sue-able thing to not follow it, though.

Why does contract law allow this? (3, Insightful)

Valdrax (32670) | about 8 years ago | (#15577755)

I've always wondered exactly why contract law allows for one (but not both) of the parties to arbitrarily define the terms of what either party is allowed to do under the contract. What's the point of allowing an agreement to be binding that can be completely subverted in meaning at any time?

Re:Why does contract law allow this? (1)

harrkev (623093) | about 8 years ago | (#15577824)

IANAL, but the contract IS binding, and both parties have to live up to it

The catch is that when somebody changes it, you have to be notified. You can generally choose to reject the changes, but that will mean canceling whatever contract that you have with them.

Now for one interesting question...

Let's say that one of the cell phone companies decides to change the privacly policy. If you choose to reject the changes to the privacy policy, will the carrier let you keep the old one, or will the just drop you? And if they drop you, will you have to pay the cancellation charges (assuming that you just got a shiny new phone)?

Things that make you go "hmmmm."

Who watches the admins? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15577473)

So how many admins monitor (track) their networks?

Why... (2, Funny)

nuclearpenguins (907128) | about 8 years ago | (#15577477)

...does AT&T hate America?

Re:Why... (-1, Troll)

Kesch (943326) | about 8 years ago | (#15577486)

Because you touch yourself at night.

AT&T, once known for slamming customers.. (2, Insightful)

GonzoTech (613147) | about 8 years ago | (#15577479)

AT&T will never get it right. Their ethics in customer service are just as bad as their business ethics.

Slamming your customers used to be the popular move from AT&T, now I guess it's giving away personal data.

I'll just continue my resistance of using ANY AT&T products or services.

Well, I would not be surprised... (4, Interesting)

Bananatree3 (872975) | about 8 years ago | (#15577497)

if the other telcos started doing the same thing. In the beginning they simply said all their interactions were "classified" with the governement, building a huge smokescreen with which to hide behind. Now they have to deal with lawsuits, and they slip this into their privacy statement to stymie the 'suits. Knowing how telcos really like to avoid such suits I wouldn't be surprised if AT&T has started a fad.

Reminding you once again... (5, Insightful)

Jerf (17166) | about 8 years ago | (#15577500)

Reminding you once again that any privacy policy [sbc.com] that includes the clause that it can be changed at any time with minimal notification and no consent is no privacy policy at all.

(To be fair, the linked policy does have a nod towards "materially different" changes to the privacy policy. But guess who decides what "materially different" is...?)

Re:Reminding you once again... (1, Insightful)

bsartist (550317) | about 8 years ago | (#15577638)

Reminding you once again that any privacy policy that includes the clause that it can be changed at any time with minimal notification and no consent is no privacy policy at all.
It reminds me of job descriptions that include a long list of duties, and at the end say "additional duties as assigned." The catch-all at the end renders the rest of the list moot; they could have simply stated "duties: do what you're told" and been just as accurate.

Time for the Privacy Act (5, Insightful)

Mad Dog Manley (93208) | about 8 years ago | (#15577501)

As such, AT&T may disclose such records to protect its legitimate business interests, safeguard others, or respond to legal process.'"

Don't you see, AT&T is doing this for you, the valued customer. It is in your best interests. Don't you want to be kept safe from the evil0rz criminals?

In Canada, the Privacy Act restricts the ability of corporations to share private information. Admittedly it's not perfect, but it appears to be better than what exists in the United States.

Re:Time for the Privacy Act (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15577549)

The thing is, the wording seems to have nothing to do with the customer. ATT is basically saying that your information will be given out to anyone who asks for it. They're not protecting their customers, they're protecting themselves.

Re:Time for the Privacy Act (5, Interesting)

Mad Dog Manley (93208) | about 8 years ago | (#15577611)

They're not protecting their customers, they're protecting themselves.

That's not all. The wording in the old privacy policy said:

the company "may disclose your information in response to subpoenas, court orders, or other legal process to the extent required and/or permitted by law"

New policy:

the company "may disclose your information in response to subpoenas, court orders, or other legal process"

Looks like the law isn't important to them anymore.

*Sigh of relief* (2, Interesting)

shumacher (199043) | about 8 years ago | (#15577505)

I was shopping for a new ISP this morning, and AT&T lost out only by failing to have a particularly local dialup number.

Re:*Sigh of relief* (1)

linlu (738785) | about 8 years ago | (#15577542)

Hmm, time to ditch them for long distance. I know 'long distance' is old school to all the VOIP users, but I want 911 to work at my house. I have young kids and you never know when they'll have to call because I can't.

Re:*Sigh of relief* (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15577612)

> I know 'long distance' is old school to all the VOIP users, but I want 911 to work at my house.

You could always abuse a cell phone for this purpose. Doesn't have to be paid up, 911 will still work. Of course you do have to tell them your address, and hope they hear it right.

Thank you! (2, Insightful)

RingDev (879105) | about 8 years ago | (#15577554)

The best way to force AT&T to change their game is to vote with your all-mighty dollar. A single dollar-voting customer is worth any number of petitions and angry letters.

-Rick

Re:Thank you! (3, Insightful)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | about 8 years ago | (#15577748)

"Best" is such an overused modifier. How can you be sure that would really be the best way?

I'd imagine the freekin' Hand of God coming out of the sky and obliterating AT&T headquarters might spur them to make the change just a wee bit faster.

Both are meaningless on their own. (2)

Valdrax (32670) | about 8 years ago | (#15577842)

A single dollar-voting customer is worth any number of petitions and angry letters.

You're right. A single dollar-voting customer is just as effective as an angry letter, which is to say that they're both pointless and empty gestures. Even a petition is worthless if all people do is grumble and then go back to being good little consumers.

Now a petition that gets a critical mass of people to commit to terminating their service... Ah, now that's actually worth something.

A single voter is as meaningless as a single rain drop. A movement can be a torrential flood. So, tell me now: are you trying to help build a storm front, or are you just making puddles?

How is this legal? (4, Interesting)

AWhiteFlame (928642) | about 8 years ago | (#15577511)

Can they really legally say, "Welp, even though it's your personal data, we reserve the right to do whatever we want with it if it benefits us or our partners." ?

Re:How is this legal? (2, Interesting)

stratjakt (596332) | about 8 years ago | (#15577593)

Yes, because they are legitimate business records.

Best Buy is allowed to keep all your credit card purchases on file, and use those records however they see fit in the course of business - including selling your purchasing habits to a marketing firm for analysis.

If you don't like it, tough titties. Move to a developing nation that doesn't have technology yet.

Re:How is this legal? (1)

DM9290 (797337) | about 8 years ago | (#15577752)

If you don't like it, tough titties. Move to a developing nation that doesn't have technology yet.

because you can shit-sure bet that "In America" your government representative doesn't care what you think.

Re:How is this legal? (2, Informative)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | about 8 years ago | (#15577773)

If you don't like it, tough titties.

Paying in cash, not accepting value cards, and lying through your teeth on any papers they have you fill out (like rebates) also works remarkably well.

Re:How is this legal? (4, Interesting)

richg74 (650636) | about 8 years ago | (#15577632)

Yes, they can do just that.

While your account information may be personal to you, these records constitute business records that are owned by AT&T.

This really summarizes the legal problems with privacy here in the US. Although the data that people collect on you is "personal to you", it almost always, legally, belongs to whoever collected it. The hodgepodge of Federal and state laws doesn't help. For example, here in Virginia, my medical records are the property of my doctor. It was only relatively recently that legislation was passed that gives me the statutory right to see my own medical records.

This also relates directly to the more-or-less careless approach many firms take to protecting personal data. If the data belongs to them, they are that much more insulated from any legal consquences of losing it.

Bruce Schneier [schneier.com] has discussed this in a number of his blog posts and essays.

Re:How is this legal? (5, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 8 years ago | (#15577689)

You know, 10 years ago the only people worried about privacy were those crazy militia guys in Montana. Nowadays, they not only seem sane, but increasingly look like geniuses!

Re:How is this legal? (4, Funny)

gbobeck (926553) | about 8 years ago | (#15577641)

Can they really legally say, "Welp, even though it's your personal data, we reserve the right to do whatever we want with it if it benefits us or our partners." ?


I am not a lawyer, but from what I have seen on the web, it is perfectly ok and legal provided they don't include "Nyah, Nyah Nyah, Nyah Nyah.", "Neener Neener, or "Smoochy Boochy" at the end of the policy.

Re:How is this legal? (1)

Guppy06 (410832) | about 8 years ago | (#15577793)

"Can they really legally say,"

Why not? The laws are written by those same people who can't bring themselves to even question the NSA's and AT&T's activities.

So, does this mean we can get out of our contracts (3, Interesting)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 8 years ago | (#15577521)

...with the company formerly known as Cingular, since they're changing the terms of the agreement after the fact?

Re:So, does this mean we can get out of our contra (1)

m-wielgo (858054) | about 8 years ago | (#15577572)

If this is true, excellent opportunity for me to switch to a better service and avoid the $200 rape

Re:So, does this mean we can get out of our contra (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15577746)

No. Cingular is a joint venture between AT&T and Bellsouth. The privacy policy with them is what applies to you. Nice try.

Re:So, does this mean we can get out of our contra (2, Funny)

Valdrax (32670) | about 8 years ago | (#15577869)

No. Your contract says that they can change their policies at any time, and that you'll like it... b-tch!

As long as they're affiliated with Yahoo... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15577555)

F*** them. I simply will not ever do business with any company tied to Yahoo since they wiped out my 7 year e-mail account for no reason whatsoever. They simply cannot be trusted. Period.

Ouch. (4, Funny)

theskipper (461997) | about 8 years ago | (#15577566)

That does it. I'm sending back my "AT&T Best Friends Forever" ring.

Perfect opportunity for me to get off my duff. (5, Interesting)

(H)elix1 (231155) | about 8 years ago | (#15577576)

With my bride and I both using cell phones as our primary line, I've put off canceling them on my POTS line for long distance service. Well no more - the $8USD/month (was $3, but it looks like it jumped up with extra fees) just to have the service is not a lot of cash, but at least I'll get a chance to give AT&T a big old FU and the horse you road in on. The rep had the brass to say this was something to strengthen my 'privacy', then started on a song and dance about September 11th.

For those in the US, 1-800-222-0300 option 6 gets you where you need to go. Expect a 30 minute (or more) wait time.

Fuckers...

Re:Perfect opportunity for me to get off my duff. (1)

rodgster (671476) | about 8 years ago | (#15577804)

I gave them the one finger salute back when they were SBC (cut the land line completely).

At the time, it was to protest their outsourcing.

Contract Violation (3, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 8 years ago | (#15577580)

In most states, actually operating under the terms of a contract, even if it's not signed by any party, gives that contract full force and effect.

If I used AT&T for anything covered by that privacy "policy", I'd sue them for unilaterally changing the terms of the contract without my consent. If I were a lawyer, I'd construct a class of everyone whose contract they're breaching.

Unless the old privacy policy says "AT&T can unilaterally change any terms of this policy without notice at any time", in which case I'd be a fool to think it was anything but an invitation to screw me whenever they want.

wait... the cable co isn't tracking what I watch?! (3, Interesting)

legal_asshole (859683) | about 8 years ago | (#15577586)

"Notable changes include notification that AT&T will track viewing habits of customers of its new video services Homezone and U-Verse, which is forbidden for cable and satellite companies, [...]"

Did anybody else find that the most shocking/suprising part of the article? I had just always assumed that the primary purpose of the digital boxes the cable company gives you was so that they could have more control over tracking what you're watching and when, but apparently my secret American Idol fetish is safe (at least from the cable company's datawharehouse).

What !! (3, Funny)

cdogbert (964753) | about 8 years ago | (#15577594)

All your data are belong to us. You have no chance to complain, make your time.

Not off the hook? (1)

orb_fan (677056) | about 8 years ago | (#15577595)

IANAL, but it seems to me that this doesn't get them off the hook with the NSA taps. First, I would assume that they can only give to the government what they themselves collect (so NSA tapping the lines means that the NSA is collecting the data and not AT&T). Second, the request for data still has to be legal, and that question is still open for the courts.

Vote with your Dollars (1)

Efialtis (777851) | about 8 years ago | (#15577599)

So, it is now time to cancel any AT&T service. I dumped my Long Distance (in favor of Vonage), I dumped my Cell Phone, and I would not use their other services for anything, especially when I can get use other companies for less $$...
Vote with your dollars...don't pay them if they aren't serving your interests as a customer.
It really is that simple.

Virus ownership? (2, Insightful)

Sebastopol (189276) | about 8 years ago | (#15577602)

Does that mean if I download a virus from an AT&T pipe that they own the virus too, so if it damanges my machine I can sue them, or maybe I can hold AT&T responsible for "their data" corrupting "my system" that I purchased?

VOIP modem to Out of country ISP? (1)

RingDev (879105) | about 8 years ago | (#15577624)

Now, this could be a heck of a performance hit, but... What if a company supplied a local VOIP call-in bank. As in POTS copper lines that you could dial into on a modem. That VOIP call could then be secured and piped to some other country. The other end of the VOIP call would then be answered by a modem bank which spits out into some foreign ISP.

It would be slow as tar, but it should get you a connection that isn't being directly reviewed by the NSA.

The other problem is that even those of us who don't sign AT&T's privacy agreement can still be monitored as packets bound for us may travel over their backbone pipes.

-Rick

Re:VOIP modem to Out of country ISP? (5, Insightful)

Oswald (235719) | about 8 years ago | (#15577739)

Well, it's interesting, but it kind of misses the point. I don't have anything to hide from the NSA; that's not why I want them to stop spying on Americans. I want them to stop spying on Americans because stopping is the right, legal thing to do. Attempting to circumvent their procedures might give be fun in a "stickin' it to the man" sort of way, but it doesn't really take us where we want to go.

Actual policies... (2, Informative)

dthulson (904894) | about 8 years ago | (#15577629)

Here are links to the new policy [sbcglobal.net] and the current policy [sbc.com] .

Re:Actual policies... (1)

dthulson (904894) | about 8 years ago | (#15577715)

Note to get that first link you'll either have cookies enabled, and answer some questions about what services you have from SBC. As far as I can tell, any of their options will get you to the same page...

In other words... (1)

symbolic (11752) | about 8 years ago | (#15577651)

As such, AT&T may disclose such records to protect its legitimate business interests,

Translation: "Everything has its price, including our souls and our integrity as a member of the private sector."

Boycott (1)

JymBrittain (880082) | about 8 years ago | (#15577653)

There are alternatives out there for telecommunication services. Show AT&T what you think about their policies and hit them where it hurts. Dump them as providers!

Re:Boycott (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15577673)

Or just encrypt everything and run through proxies. They can share data until the cows come home, making any sense of it will be prohibitively expensive if you do it right.

Re:Boycott (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15577874)

I already encrypt my traffic whenever possible, but I don't have a list of proxies to use. Anyone want to help me out?

Re:Boycott (1)

debozero (209948) | about 8 years ago | (#15577840)

I dumped AT&T Wireless a few years ago when my CC # was stolen (twice) after I paid my wireless bill online. I told them about the situation and how I paid my bill both times (first time at home second at work). They told me I was on my own for the most part and all but refused to look into the problem on their end. So I cancelled my service with them and about 2 weeks later my buddy called me and told me his CC# was stolen a few weeks after paying his AT&T bill online. So from my stand point AT&T has been giving personal information out without permission for years and now they are just trying to make it legal hmmm where have I heard that before?

Read between the lines... (1, Interesting)

EvilGrin5000 (951851) | about 8 years ago | (#15577671)

FTFA...
Gail Hillebrand, a staff attorney at Consumers Union in San Francisco, said the declaration that AT&T owns customers' data represents the most significant departure from the company's previous policy. "It creates the impression that they can do whatever they want," she said. "This is the real heart of AT&T's new policy and is a pretty fundamental difference from how most customers probably see things."
...from how most customers probably see things. Which brings me to the next quote FTFA...
John Britton, an AT&T spokesman, denied that the updated privacy policy marks a shift in the company's approach to customers' info. "We don't see this as anything new," he said. "Our goal was to make the policy easier to read and easier for customers to understand."
...
But Britton insisted that these elements essentially could be found between the lines of the former policy. "There were many things that were implied in the last policy." He said. "We're just clarifying the last policy."
So my dear /. fellows, AT&T is clearly stating that it was always their intention to use your private information for their needs, and it was always in their power. What changed is that now the words used in the policy are more black-and-white than before. As far as AT&T 'owning' a customer's private info, I'd like to see the policy and read the fine print. Since I don't have one on hand, I think they are talking about the customer's information is private to the customer (DOB, SSN, First/Last name etc...) but to AT&T, it is a piece of DATA which belongs to the business. The DATA contains private info, but I think AT&T is claiming ownership on your data as a whole, as part of a registered user. The fact that they will disclose DOBs, names etc... for whatever reason, is a cascade scenario occuring from the fact that the DATA they will disclose, happens to contain your private information. This policy change is not a shocker at all. In fact it's more shocking that they actually stated in the policy the 'ownership' and 'disclosure' as clearly as they did. We all knew AT&T has always disclosed information.

Re:Read between the lines... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15577747)

When did you give AT&T your SSN, or even DOB?

They have your name, address, and billing information. They need to be able to use that to bill you.

Charter Communicationsbasically does this also (3, Interesting)

xlr8ed (726203) | about 8 years ago | (#15577692)

15. RIGHT TO MONITOR

Neither Charter nor any of its affiliates, suppliers, or agents have any obligation to monitor transmissions or postings (including, but not limited to, e-mail, newsgroup, and instant message transmission as well as materials available on the personal web pages and online storage features) made on the Service. However, Charter and its affiliates, suppliers, and agents have the right to monitor these transmissions and postings from time to time for violations of this Policy and to disclose, block, or remove them in accordance with the Subscriber Agreement and any other applicable agreements and policies.


Charter laid this out about 15 months ago, basically stating that they have the right to watch and record anything you are doing under the guise of "protecting" itself

sheep (4, Insightful)

non (130182) | about 8 years ago | (#15577698)


i hate regulation...
privacy policy...
etc.

are you people stupid? you must be, the government just announced it spent 30 million of your money to buy exactly this type of information. in my mind thats the ultimate indignation, they broke the law, and operated against my interests using my cash. if you're going to sit around and just carp about privacy policies rather than demanding serious reforms AND regulations in the laws governing personal information then thats exactly what you are...

Re:sheep (3, Insightful)

QCompson (675963) | about 8 years ago | (#15577802)

if you're going to sit around and just carp about privacy policies rather than demanding serious reforms AND regulations in the laws governing personal information then thats exactly what you are...

Good point, but did you see American Idol this season? It was awesome!

Re:sheep (3, Insightful)

Red Flayer (890720) | about 8 years ago | (#15577831)

"are you people stupid? "

No.

"you must be, the government just announced it spent 30 million of your money to buy exactly this type of information. in my mind thats the ultimate indignation, they broke the law, and operated against my interests using my cash."

Yes, we must be stupid because the government did something we don't like.

"if you're going to sit around and just carp about privacy policies rather than demanding serious reforms AND regulations in the laws governing personal information then thats exactly what you are..."

Well, it sure as hell beats sitting around and carping about people carping about the problem. How do you know that no one posting here isn't making serious efforts to get these problems fixed? How do you know whether or not I met with my NJ state senator last week regarding this issue? How do you know that I haven't been calling my US Senator to discuss, following up with letters?

You don't know jack about what actions other slahdot contributors are doing, so pipe down.

In short, by your definition of stupid, you're twice as stupid as the people you complain about. Why don't you take some action instead of sitting on your rear? Or even better, organize people to take action as a group instead of whinging about the complainers?

privacy? (3, Insightful)

blitz487 (606553) | about 8 years ago | (#15577725)

'While your account information may be personal to you, these records constitute business records that are owned by AT&T. As such, AT&T may disclose such records to protect its legitimate business interests, safeguard others, or respond to legal process.'

In other words, their "privacy" policy is they can do whatever they please without limit with your information.

How far AT&T have fallen... (2, Insightful)

SourceVisigoth (141614) | about 8 years ago | (#15577737)

Over the past 30 years they've gone from a monolithic corporate/government agency that owns your phone, line, and soul to a decentralized oligarchy that owns your phone, line, and soul... back to a umm... hrrmmm..

Where is the privacy policy? (1)

spamacon (239531) | about 8 years ago | (#15577756)

I've looked at AT+T's site (ok, att.sbc.com) to see the Privacy Policy, going to this link [sbc.com] for the full text of the policy, and unless they changed something because of the article, I can't find any of the language that is quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle report. Specifically, I can't find this quote:
"to protect its legitimate business interests, safeguard others, or respond to legal process."
I can't find the word "legitimate" in the policy at all. Am I looking at the wrong policy?

Please, be gentle. Thanks.

Re:Where is the privacy policy? (1)

spamacon (239531) | about 8 years ago | (#15577832)

Responding to my own reply, this looks like it only applies to ATT Yahoo internet (Dialup, DSL) and video, and has nothing to do with ATT wireless (ok, Cingular), voice (including POTS), etc. Somebody posted a link to the actual privacy policy in question here [sbcglobal.net] .

Colluding with the government (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Bullard (62082) | about 8 years ago | (#15577782)

Although most Americans seem to accept this kind of erosion of personal privacy in the name of comrade Bush's long war of terror or simply as the undeniable birthright of large corporations, only a handful understands that these kind of US policies are helping spread the big chill across other continents as well.


Forgetting about hypocrisy for a moment, there was a time when the US would advocate and to an extent even represent personal freedoms in most other parts of the world. Now it's all empty talk in inaugural speeches about the great USA is helping oppressed people regain their freedoms but as it happens most of those people desperately needing american support just happen to be oppressed by so-called allies in this "war of terror, countries like China etc.

For those of us who actually live under undemocratic governments, the fact that american telecoms are helping the government track people and their interests is making it painfully easy for other freedom-hating regimes to impose similar or worse policies which only help chill the personal freedoms even further.

SSL Sites Are Becoming A Must (1)

LoneWlf794 (984089) | about 8 years ago | (#15577791)

This should deffinitely spur an outcry for SSL sites. If someone infringes your privacy you should should lash out and try to have the problem fixed. Whenever you can't get the job done though it's nice to have something to fall back on. Any defense is better than no defense. I just checked https://slashdot.org/ [slashdot.org] and got redirected to the http:/// [http] page. I suggest you all write with me asking for encryption on this site and any other site that you actually care about.

Companies are in business to serve us (1)

NetNinja (469346) | about 8 years ago | (#15577808)

I guess the larger a company gets the more they feel they are in business to serve thier own purposes.

How some of these phone/data companies make money is beyond me, it seems that the amount of profit they take in is so incredibly small and when it comes time to merge or sell these companies millions of dollars are shuffled under another shell.

Corporate Espionage (5, Interesting)

W.Mandamus (536033) | about 8 years ago | (#15577813)

"While your account information may be personal to you, these records constitute business records that are owned by AT&T. As such, AT&T may disclose such records to protect its legitimate business interests, safeguard others, or respond to legal process."

So lets see:
If I work at AT&T and a headhunter calls me at work or at home the corporation to check my phone records to "protect its legitimate business interests".

If I am a competitor of AT&T's, AT&T can find out what VC's I've been calling to "protect its legitimate business interests".

If I am sueing AT&T, AT&T can check my phone records to find out when I called my lawyer to "protect its legitimate business interests".

If I sign a contract with AT&T to provide me with my competitors phone records AT&T can do it to "protect its legitimate business interests".

You know if I were in charge of secruity for a major corporation I would be extremely worried about this.

Public wireless for anything illegal (3, Insightful)

NineNine (235196) | about 8 years ago | (#15577819)

No big deal... if anybody wants to do anything illegal online, or even look at questionable material, it's simply a matter of using your local municipal wireless network. The only thing the feds will find out will be the MAC address and the time said content was accessed.

"Legitimate Business Interests" scare me (1)

psychorhino (983162) | about 8 years ago | (#15577854)

"As such, AT&T may disclose such records to protect its legitimate business interests, safeguard others, or respond to legal process.'"

What especially scares me is the clause "to protect its legitimate business interests." While the intention of this clause is probably to allow AT&T to pass personal information to the government, its very ambiguity frightens the heck out of me. "Legitimate business interests?" I am currently reading Slashdot through an AT&T / SBC DSL connection; if they see these comments on Slashdot, can they disclose my personal information in retaliation? Can they use my internet surfing habits to humilate me and stifle criticism of the company?
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