The Canadian Privacy Law Blog: Developments in privacy law and writings of a Canadian privacy lawyer, containing information related to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (aka PIPEDA) and other Canadian and international laws.

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The author of this blog, David T.S. Fraser, is a Canadian privacy lawyer who practices with the firm of McInnes Cooper. He is the author of the Physicians' Privacy Manual. He has a national and international practice advising corporations and individuals on matters related to Canadian privacy laws.

For full contact information and a brief bio, please see David's profile.

Please note that I am only able to provide legal advice to clients. I am not able to provide free legal advice. Any unsolicited information sent to David Fraser cannot be considered to be solicitor-client privileged.

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The views expressed herein are solely the author's and should not be attributed to his employer or clients. Any postings on legal issues are provided as a public service, and do not constitute solicitation or provision of legal advice. The author makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained herein or linked to. Nothing herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel.

This web site is presented for informational purposes only. These materials do not constitute legal advice and do not create a solicitor-client relationship between you and David T.S. Fraser. If you are seeking specific advice related to Canadian privacy law or PIPEDA, contact the author, David T.S. Fraser.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

AOL makes users waive privacy and purports to own users' instant messages  

It pays to read the fine print. AOL's Instant Messenger software (AIM) is one of the more popoular IM platforms. Privacy Digest just pointed a reference to AIM's new Terms of Service, which purport to give AOL a blanket right to do whatever they want with users' private messages and require the user to waive all rights to privacy with respect to those messages.

AIM Terms of Service:

"...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...."

This is exactly the sort of thing that will backfire on a company. It was posted to Slashdot early yesterday (Slashdot | AIM's New Terms Of Service) and it is getting pretty wide coverage. The above terms will make people think that AOL is a proxy for "big brother" or that it is heavy handed or both. I don't think it'll be long before it gets to the conventional media (it's already referred to in the Houston Chronicle Techblog: - N0 privacy 4 u, LOL!!!!!), which will threaten AOL's proposed move into VOIP services. "If they eavesdrop on my instant messages, can I trust them with my phone calls?."

It'll be interesting to see how this plays out.

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