America Online Inc. on Sunday moved to quell public criticism of the terms of service for its AIM service, insisting the controversial privacy clause does not pertain to user-to-user instant messaging communication.
A section of the controversial clause, which was first flagged by Weblogs and discussion forums, reads: "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.
"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.
America Online spokesman Andrew Weinstein, however, maintained that AOL does not monitor, read or review any user-to-user communication through the AIM network, except in response to a valid legal process.
Weinstein told eWEEK.com the clause in question falls under the heading "Content You Post," meaning it only relates to content a user posts in a public area of the AIM service. "If a user posts content in a public area of the service, like a chat room, message board or other public forum, that information may be used by AOL for other purposes," he explained.
One example of this, Weinstein said, may be a user who posts a "Hot or Not" photo and thus allows AIM to post it for other AIM users to vote on. "Another might be taking an excerpt from a message board posting on a current news issue and highlighting it in a different area of the service.
"Such language is standard in almost all similar user agreements, including those from Microsoft [Corp.] and most online news publications. That clause simply lets the user know that content they post in a public area can be seen by other users and can be used by the owner of the site for other purposes," Weinstein added.
"AIM user-to-user communication has been and will remain private," the AOL spokesman declared.