(en) AOL to Sell Subscriber Telephone Numbers

Stefan Merten (merten@dfki.uni-kl.de)
Wed, 06 Aug 1997 10:08:43 +0200

A AA AAAA The A-Infos News Service AA AA AA AA INFOSINFOSINFOS http://www.tao.ca/ainfos/ AAAA AAAA AAAAA AAAAA

Source: EPIC-Alert Volume 4.11, July 23, 1997

Published by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) Washington, D.C.

======================================================================= [1] AOL to Sell Subscriber Telephone Numbers =======================================================================

In a quiet change to its privacy policy, America Online will soon be adding subscriber phone numbers to the list of personal information that it sells to direct marketers. The company may also match member lists against "publicly available third-party data" to develop lists for outside direct mail opportunities. Previously, AOL's privacy policy prevented the disclosure of subscriber telephone numbers, while allowing the company to sell member names and addresses.

The new policy, which is to take effect on July 31, can be found in the relatively obscure "Terms of Service" area of the online service. No notice of the new policy has been provided on the "Welcome" screen where new AOL features are typically announced. The revised policy states that

We make our mailing list (name and address) available to select independent companies that offer products and information we think may interest you. Additionally, we may make the list with telephone numbers available to companies with which AOL, Inc. has contractual marketing and online relationships for the purpose of permitting such companies to offer products and services over the telephone. AOL, Inc. may also match the Member lists against publicly available third-party data (demographic information, areas of interest, etc.) to develop lists for use by these companies.

The new policy, which is to take effect on July 31, also points out that AOL discloses individual information in an aggregated form in order to describe its services to prospective partners, advertisers and other third parties. AOL may also use publicly available third-party data such as demographic information and areas of interest to assist AOL in their "programming, editorial research and to offer special opportunities to our Members."

While AOL will generally not disclose "navigational" or "transactional" information (such as where you go or what you buy through AOL) to third parties, it may use such information to develop member lists for companies with which AOL has a contractual marketing relationship.

For years (and most recently before the Federal Trade Commission), industry has argued that self-regulation and not legislation is the only way to ensure that businesses protect individual privacy in electronic media. If AOL's new privacy policy is representative of industry's vision of what self regulation entails, users may have real cause for concern.

More information on online privacy is available at:


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Date: Tue, 5 Aug 1997 11:37:51 +0200 To: fiff-l@dia.informatik.uni-stuttgart.de From: "Ralf E. Streibl" <res@informatik.uni-bremen.de> Subject: AOL to Sell Subscriber Telephone Numbers

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