This article from Aunty Spam’s Net Patrol discusses AOL’s (lack of) privacy in AIM. Apparently AIM users who have downloaded or registered for AIM since Feb. 4, 2004, have given up all rights to privacy and have granted AOL permission to reproduce or publish their messages. Read the article for yourself and read AOL’s terms of service here.
There are alternatives, some of which are inherently secure and some of which have encryption options. I’ll try to update this entry with some as I can.
Update: 3/15/2005, 13:03, California time
Yesterday, I happened to have copied and saved a piece of the TOS language that concerned me. Today, as of about 5 minutes ago, it was no longer on the site. Here’s the original language:
“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.”
Update, 3/15/2005, 13:20:
Right, check out Slashdot again. This Slashdot posting contains a link to this eWeek article which says that AOL intends to make changes to clarify their intent. It appears those changes have been made.