Welcome to the bloggy home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Percolate and general internet tinkerer. This site is about media, culture, technology, and randomness. It's been around since 2004 (I'm pretty sure). Feel free to get in touch. Get in touch.

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AOL Responds to TOS Issues

A few days ago I wrote about some questionable language in the AOL Terms of Service. Well, it appears as though AOL has decided to address these issues (which they call rumors). As they write in the press release: “A number of online media outlets and blogs have recently written about rumors that AOL has changed the AIM Terms of Service (TOS) to weaken the privacy of AIM users. We want to assure you that those rumors are totally false.” They have added this language to the new “Content You Post” section of the new TOS:

As explained in detail in the AIM Privacy Policy, AOL does not read your private online communications when you use any of the communication tools on AIM Products. If, however, you use these tools to post Content or other information to public areas on AIM Products (for example, in chat rooms or online message boards), other online users will have access to this information and Content.

Certainly clears up a lot of questions. In the press release they make it seem like it was so obvious in the original TOS that they were referring to content you post to public spaces, but nowhere in the original section did it even mention the word “public.” A little misleading to say the least.

They also replaced this fairly inflammatory language:

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.

With this:

However, by submitting or posting Content to public areas of AIM Products (for example, posting a message on a message board or submitting your picture for the “Rate-A-Buddy” feature), 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. Once you submit or post Content to any public area on an AIM Product, AOL does not need to give you any further right to inspect or approve uses of such Content or to compensate you for any such uses. AOL owns all right, title and interest in any compilation, collective work or other derivative work created by AOL using or incorporating Content posted to public areas of AIM Products.

While I certainly appreciate that they made these changes, wouldn’t it be nice to make users feel as though they weren’t crazy for thinking that AOL was spying on them. I like AIM quite a bit and have been using it for years, I have nothing against AOL, so why should they make me feel like I was stupid for believing that by using their product I was waiving my rights?

How about AOL starts speaking to customers like people? What do you think AOL? Are you listening? Maybe there’s a reason that you guys aren’t doing so hot. Maybe the PR speak just isn’t gonna cut it anymore.

Just a thought.

March 16, 2005