AOL - All of your Conversations are Belong to Us!

Thread Title:
AOL Eavesdrops, Grants Itself Permission To Steal Your AIM Conversations
Thread Description:

Check out the new TOS for AIM

"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."

thanks susan



Looks like a US TOS - most likely it won't apply to most Europeans. A statement such as "You waive any right to privacy" would, as far as I know, not have any legal impact here in Denmark. You can't waive all such rights - consumer laws etc protects consumers against stupidity like that for most cases.

Is it just me ...

Is it just me, or are many of the major Web companies taking drastic anti-consumer or anti-webmaster measures all of a sudden?

Well now!

I'll be deleting AIM off my work computer and deleting my AIM account from Fire here at home ASAP.

And then perhaps I'll consider moving to Europe...

I don't see ...

I don't see how this would work. A similar situation would be the telephone companies claiming that they owned, and could publish anywhere at any time, the contents of all conversations you may have while using their telephone network ... but I believe U.S. citizens are protected by the government as well as civil laws (e.g., wiretapping laws).

This AOL IM thing is another lawsuit waiting to happen. These U.S. companies seem to be begging for U.S. governmental regulation. What's happening with them? After monumental success, are they now imploding?

I can't imagine how anyone wo

I can't imagine how anyone would expect any real right to privacy on a free medium. OTOH, I can't imagine what AOL would do with my just doesn't seem like anyone other than my friends would even care what I had to say in a regular conversation.

It seems like this is just a 'CYA' that AOL is doing to insure that people do *not* expect their conversations to be private if, for example, their server got broken into.

Sure, but ...

Sure, grnidone, but that relies on the presumption that you will never ever say anything private on AOL IM that you don't want published anywhere -- and neither will anyone with whom you are IMing.

I'll add that I don't use IM at all; haven't done so for years. I just see a bad trend here with certain tech companies.

I guess I didn't make myself

I guess I didn't make myself clear in one respect.

I can kind of understand why AOL is saying in no uncertain terms "This is not a private medium" because that covers themselves in case something happens.

But, I don't understand why anyone would want to publish my conversations. What could possibly be of interest to anyone other than the person I am talking to?

You may be ...

grnidone, you may be right re the covering themselves.

> What could possibly be of interest to anyone other than the person I am talking to?

I have no idea why anyone would want to publish anyone's IM conversations, but I think this new TOS sets a dangerous precedent. And let's note that it's not just anyone -- it's AOL who is claiming the right to do so. That's the point: not that anyone might be interested, but that AOL is claiming the right to publish.


A few years back didn't Yahoo try to change the TOS with (I think) Geocities when they were purchasing it, to read that everything published on the service would be copyright by Yahoo and they would have the right to republish it.

There was a huge stink. Yahoo eventually back off.

Sounds like AOL wants to go down the same road.

msn and patent

I'm sure a couple of years ago I read that MSN have a clause giving them patent rights over anything discussed with messenger?

I can't find the T&C now but it makes me wonder if the logs may be scanned for interesting keywords. It's best to always assume nothings private anyway I guess.

For those that know me...

I'm not sure that I have EVER sent a AOL / IM message that didn't contain the "F" word. And this is retoactive? What The F

Privacy vs IP rights

There is a big difference between guaranteed privacy and giving up any personal, legal and publishing rights to what you say, do or invent. In Europe I am almost 100% confident that you cannot waive all of your rights with a simple statement like AOL do. In fact, many of your rights you can't even give up if you wanted to (for example copyright to music and arts - by law you can't sell it or give it up, only sell the rights to use it commercially. There is a BIG difference!).

Some of the same issues also goes for privacy. In fact, if you store "personal sensitive information" in any kind of database (electronic or not) you are automatically obligated to protect that information. I must say tht a great deal of IM'ing will, as far as I can see, fall under this. In Denmark, as well as many other European countries, companies can actually get fined if they do not protect such data well enough.

Exactly what is possible or not in the US I am not sure about but generally US have less strict consumer protection laws and a much wider right to make any kind of agreements you want. Here in Europe we have a long tradition for protecting the stupid consumers from idiots like AOL. Thanks for that! :)

don't be cheap

If you publish content and it's yours then pay for a domain, post it there and add the creative commons clause, that way as long as people link back to you they can use what you create and it generates publicity.

More to the point have you seen how much rubbish goes up on the free servers? Would you really want to own it or reproduce it?

A lot of people's egos will be flattered at the same time as those offering to reproduce it will be finding it hard to find anything worthwhile.

Whats that got to do with it?

Owning a domain or not has nothing to do with either my privacy or IP rights being violated. Not at all. Also, it's a long time ago you had to use the C-logo on anything anywhere to keep your rights. Copyright is something get get at the time of creation and is well protected - not even AOL can change that

The point is

The point is that most people probably don't think of their (previously) private one-on-one conversations via Instant Messenger as "publishable content". Really.

An AdSense strategy!

Ha ha I can see it now...

14 billion pages of keywordy text published with AdSense ads plastered all over them.

But seriously, it looks like another survival-mode tactic. Just a short while ago they would tweak things to gain market share, now they tweak things to reduce liability even if it costs them market share. Maybe AIM is a cost center and it's time to trim the fat.

publishable content

AOL is simply staking its claim to the content.

There is no new, original content coming from AOL, it's all coming from the punters. This is the same for all the Web right now, and the publishers will take it wherever they can get it - privacy? hah!.

One day, when this post right here has been aggregated and republished, and duplicated by affiliates, and the same adsense ads appear on it across the Web - then maybe on that day I'll sue someone for royalties

but first someone has to broadcast it, and rehash it, and wrap an infomercial around it for all I know, and track it back and shout it out, and get it high in the serps, to get the value of this throwaway remark up into money.

If it's AOL I definitely want royalties :)


I suspect that it's to protect AOL against various claims, not least such as storage of data on remote servers, as well as in the event of messages being intercepted by a third party.

Yahoo! did withdraw similar claims of ownership around 2001 I think it was, but last I saw MSN claim copyright over everything on that network, including third party messages/posts. My impression is that they are to offset claims of copyright infringement via publishing in different electronic storage media.

Of course, a TOU is only as binding as law courts decide.


Related article:

there is an out for iChat users once Tiger emerges: “Of course, iChat AV is also a versatile instant text messaging application, supporting AOL Instant Messenger and Jabber Instant Messenger clients.”

Maybe Mac users will switch to this Jabber IM? Article

AOL Explains

Although it doesnt change the fact that as read, the TOS do indeed allow them to use your AIM conversations, i just spotted this response from AOL on Slashdot:

The related section of the Terms of Service is called "Content You Post" and, as such, logically and legally it relates only to content a user posts in a public area of the service.

If a user posts content in a public area of the service, like a chat room, message board, or other public forum, that information may be used by AOL for other purposes. One example of this might be a user who posts a "Rate a Buddy" photo and thus allows AIM to post it for other AIM users to vote on it. Another might be AOL taking an excerpt from a message board posting on a current news issue and highlighting it in a different area of the service.

See the link for more...

This is only making M$ft think

Thanks for the clarification Nick, that makes sense. Imagine if M$ft tried that for Outlook or MS Office. Now that would be some good data grabbing.


More on that covered in the CNET story here:

AOL clarifies IM privacy guarantee


That'll work for me (the new clarification). Not that I use IM.

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