Editor's Note: Since the posting of this story, AOL has clarified its terms of service for its AIM service, insisting the controversial privacy clause does not pertain to user-to-user instant messaging communication. Click here to read the updated story.
America Online, Inc. has quietly updated the terms of service for its AIM instant messaging application, making several changes that is sure to raise the hackles of Internet privacy advocates.
The revamped terms of service , which apply only to users who downloaded the free AIM software on or after Feb. 5, 2004, gives AOL the right to "reproduce, display, perform, distribute, adapt and promote" all content distributed across the chat network by users.
"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," according to the AIM terms-of-service.
Although the user will retain ownership of the content passed through the AIM network, the terms give AOL ownership of "all right, title and interest in any compilation, collective work or other derivative work created by AOL using or incorporating this [user] 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," it added.
The changes could have serious ramifications for AOL's AIM@Work service which is being marketed to businesses. AIM@Work offers things like Identity Services to allow the use of corporate e-mail address as AOL screen names. It also offers premium services like voice conferencing and Web meetings.
At the time of this reporting, it is not clear if the same terms of service apply to businesses who pay for the AIM@Work features. America Online executives were not available to discuss the terms of service changes.
Click here to read the article: "AOL Takes AIM at Outlook"
On Weblogs and discussion forums , the discovery of the updated AIM terms of service has led to intense discussions.
"They're encouraging businesses to use AIM to discuss details of their business correspondence, even to sync their Outlook contact and calendar files, which, according to their TOS, AOL then has the right to publish in any way they see fit, including, among other things, providing that information to business competitors. I'd be pretty damn leery of using AIM@Work for any kind of business," said Ben Stanfield, executive editor and founder of MacSlash, Inc.
Check out eWEEK.com's Messaging & Collaboration Center for more on IM and other collaboration technologies.