AOL Responds to AIM Privacy Concerns

America Online’s Instant Messenger (AIM) is getting lots of press lately, but not for the reasons the Internet Service Provider had hoped when it announced its partnership with popular Web sites late last month.

AOL’s updated privacy policy is under public scrutiny. The online giant updated its Terms of Service for AIM last year, but many have claimed recently that it violates users’ rights to privacy. The company is defending its intent, explaining that it was merely a misunderstanding that has spread like wildfire over the World Wide Web.

AOL Speaks Out

AOL spokesman Andrew Weinstein told TechNewsWorld that all the hoopla stems from a “misinterpretation of a section within a legal document that referred solely to content posted in public areas.”

Unfortunately, he said, that misunderstanding spread through the blogosphere and falsely alarmed many customers. Weinstein said there has been no change to users’ privacy rights.

“AOL has always protected its ability to use publicly posted messages and chat room postings as promotional tools elsewhere on the site,” he said. “But users’ privacy rights in terms of their personal communication remains unchanged. We do not read, review or store personal communication between users.”

Controversial Clause

The controversial clause reads, “Although you or the owner of the Content retain ownership of all right, title and interest in Content that you post to an 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.

“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. 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,” it added.

Educating Users

Weinstein is busy telling the same clarifying story to media outlets over and over again in effort to squelch the rumor. But that is not the only action AOL is taking in the wake of this PR nightmare.

“We are working to educate users. We are adding material to relevant sections of the site so that when people pull up pages pertaining to the terms of service they will understand what it really means,” Weinstein said.

“Beyond that we are hopeful that the same forces in the blogosphere that can rapidly spread misinformation can also correct it with accurate information.”

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