Sunday, March 13, 2005

AIM and Privacy

I find this deeply troubling, and need to spend some time deciding what to do about it. Frankly, removing AIM use from my life would be a non-trivial lifestyle change; I have many, many friends with whom my primary mode of keeping in touch with them is Instant Messenger. The newest version of the Instant Messenger Terms of Service includes this passage:
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.
The one thing I'm sure of is that everyone who uses AIM needs to be aware that AOL has given itself the right to record, inspect, and publish your Instant Messenger conversations. What I'm not sure of yet is whether I can learn to live with that.


  1. I don't instant message much anymore, but methinks it's time for a mass exodus to one of the better services, like Skype or Jabber.

    This is typical of (large, scary) companies that run what appear to be good free services- they get you addicted, and then they fuck you over. it's basically the same thing as happened in the Fraunhofer MP3 case. Once everybody was always using MP3s, they decided to charge a license to companies distributing decoders and encoders.

    I doubt that AOL cares, and it's not even clear that the new terms of service are legally enforceable, but it's time to do the classic consumer thing and bail when they get ridiculous.


  2. further some stuff that I read this afternoon, it's also not clear that "post" covers things that are sent over Instant Messenger; various AOL lackeys are going around saying that post only means making messageboard posts on AOL's web sites.

    You should also be aware that the last time I checked the OpenDiary terms of service, they had a similar clause. If you're going to bug off of a service that tries to steal your content, OD would be a good choice.