Welcome to the home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Variance and general internet tinkerer. Most of my writing these days is happening over at Why is this interesting?, a daily email full of interesting stuff. This site has been around since 2004. Feel free to get in touch. Good places to get started are my Framework of the Day posts or my favorite books and podcasts. Get in touch.

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AOL is Listening In on You

AOL Instant Messenger’s new Terms of Service includes a rather disturbing addition that gives AOL a right to do anything they want with your conversations (if I understand it correctly). Here’s what it says:

Content You Post

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.

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.

Those last two lines are what really disturb me. “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.”

I’m not quite sure what to say about it, but I’m going to seriously consider moving to another program. Are there other options that allow you to chat with your AIM buddies? I have to admit, I’m not very down on this stuff, since I’ve been using AIM for as long as I can remember.

Thanks to Thrashing Through Cyberspace for the heads-up on this one.

UPDATE: Read my entry about the updates to the AOL TOS.

March 12, 2005