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WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE?
Magpie is a former journalist, attempted historian [No, you can't ask how her thesis is going], and full-time corvid of the lesbian persuasion. She keeps herself in birdseed by writing those bad computer manuals that you toss out without bothering to read them. She also blogs too much when she's not on deadline, both here and at Pacific Views.

Magpie roosts in Portland, Oregon, where she annoys her housemates (as well as her cats Medea, Whiskers, and Jane Doe) by attempting to play Irish music on the fiddle and concertina.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

All your data are belong to me.

Our good pals at AT&T — you know, the company that's been helping the NSA eavesdrop on phone calls since 2001 — have figured out yet another way to keep from paying the price for their illegal cooperation with the feds: They've issued a new privacy policy for its internet and video customers that makes their confidential data the property of AT&T, and allows the company to pretty much do what it wants with that data. Under current policy, confidential data belongs to customers, and the corporate use of that data — including sharing it with the feds — is greatly limited.

The new policy says that AT&T [can use customers' confidential information] "to protect its legitimate business interests, safeguard others, or respond to legal process."

The policy also indicates that AT&T will track the viewing habits of customers of its new video service -- something that cable and satellite providers are prohibited from doing.

Moreover, AT&T (formerly known as SBC) is requiring customers to agree to its updated privacy policy as a condition for service -- a new move that legal experts say will reduce customers' recourse for any future data sharing with government authorities or others....

Under its former privacy policy, introduced in September 2004, AT&T said it might use customer's data "to respond to subpoenas, court orders or other legal process, to the extent required and/or permitted by law."

The new version, which is specifically for Internet and video customers, is much more explicit about the company's right to cooperate with government agencies in any security-related matters -- and AT&T's belief that customers' data belongs to the company, not customers.

"While your account information may be personal to you, these records constitute business records that are owned by AT&T," the new policy declares. "As such, AT&T may disclose such records to protect its legitimate business interests, safeguard others, or respond to legal process."

It says the company "may disclose your information in response to subpoenas, court orders, or other legal process," omitting the earlier language about such processes being "required and/or permitted by law."

The new policy states that AT&T "may also use your information in order to investigate, prevent or take action regarding illegal activities, suspected fraud (or) situations involving potential threats to the physical safety of any person" -- conditions that would appear to embrace any terror-related circumstance.

It's not hard to understand what the new policy means: In order to get service, you have to agree to let AT&T collect information on your usage that goes far beyond what they [or any other company] is currently collecting, and you have to agree that AT&T can surrender any or all of that info to the feds — even if the feds haven't bothered to get a warrant.

Welcome to the 'land of the free.'

Via SF Chronicle.

| | Posted by Magpie at 2:22 PM | Get permalink




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