Wednesday, June 21, 2006

All Your Data Are Belong To Us... -AT&T

From today's Wall Street Journal, stalwart of the business elite of America, comes the news that AT&T is changing it's privacy policy to explicitly allow them to share your private data with the US Government (or anyone they damn well please, thank you very much).

See (subscription required)

  • AT&T Revises Privacy Policy,
    Says It May Share Personal Data
    June 22, 2006

  • AT&T Inc. said it clarified its privacy policy for Internet and television customers to state explicitly that subscriber information is a business record belonging to the company and may be turned over to law enforcement in some cases.
  • AT&T also indicated that under its revised policy, which takes effect tomorrow and is being emailed to its more than seven million Internet customers, the San Antonio company plans to track customers' TV viewing habits. Some privacy advocates said they were troubled that the new policy appeared to be an attempt to give the company broader control over customer information.
  • The policy revisions come as AT&T, as well as other phone companies, come under criticism and as it faces lawsuits claiming AT&T had inappropriately assisted with government surveillance of customers. AT&T has denied wrongdoing.
  • AT&T's new policy states: "While your account information may be personal to you, these records constitute business records that are owned by AT&T. As such, AT&T may disclose such records to protect its legitimate business interests, safeguard others or respond to legal process."
  • AT&T's old policy wasn't as explicit, saying customer information may be shared "to respond to subpoenas, court orders or other legal process," but not specifically calling them business records owned by the company. The new policy also states that customers must agree to it before using the broadband and TV service. AT&T's old policy didn't include such a requirement.
  • AT&T said the revisions had been in the works since December and were aimed at clarifying legal wording for customers. The new policy is aimed at covering Internet subscribers as well as those of AT&T's new TV service, which it plans to expand in numerous markets later this year, said spokeswoman Tiffany Nels. AT&T regular phone customers, who make up the vast majority of its business, won't be affected by the updates to the policy for Internet and TV customers. The lawsuits didn't prompt the revisions, she said.
  • Some privacy advocates objected to the new policy. "The public needs to be deeply concerned that AT&T is asserting proprietary ownership over a record of what they do by calling it a business record," said Mark Cooper, director of research for the Consumer Federation of America.

Seeing a pattern here?

Kill network neutrality.
Musings from Scott: Do you care about Net Neutrality? You should.

Promise low cost high speed internet, charge for it, then don't deliver
Musings from Scott: Yes Virgina.. the Telecoms are screwing you

Now this. Your data belongs to us.

So first they promise a low cost fast network, charge you for it, but keep the money to fatten profits and buy million dollar routers that allow them to create specific levels of service on the public networks, then they make the net something they can productize and charge tiered service fees for and to top it off, they make sure you 'agree' (or they won't give you service) that all your data, usage, and information is something they own and that they can use as they see fit.

I doubt it was planned so blatantly, but I doubt they aren't aware of the benefits of these actions as well. I spent several years in the telco world as an executive in charge of strategy for services. This is not beyond them. And, based on my experience with many of the other executives that ran these companies, it's very much intended. These are businesses that view the telco space as a battleground. Fiercely competitive. They don't consider the internet a public utility and they most certainly don't consider us, the users, as anything other than revenue generation points.

Call me cynical, but you can also call me right.

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An excellent read from an ex-evangelical.

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