(en) Serious potential invasion of privacy

Francisco Lopez (d005734c@dc.seflin.org)
Wed, 22 Oct 1997 12:06:35 -0400 (EDT)

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After the previous experience with MS IE, Netscape and several websites with a "bug" that lt exposed your HD to prying eyes in the companies above ("bug" alleguely corrected after the furious reaction of netters and now we are notified about "cockies" and other items controlling our HDs), we know that doing this again is technically feasible. So our interest, independently of the veracity of the allegations containe in this forwarded article, in seeing interested parties to examine the matter.

[The Following Article was Anonymously sent]

I am very sorry to be interrupting anything on your end. However, this is a message I am forwarding to all the people I know on AOL and beyond. I do not know how to verify this information but I think it only fair to share this with all who may be concerned. Please read the following message very carefully! If it is true, then one of you may make the difference of success or failure as I am not quite sure what I can do by myself. Sincerely, Rick Smith

>From a former AOL employee:

I'll try and cut through the crap, and try to get to the point of this letter. I used to work for America Online, and would like to remain anonymous for that reason. I was laid off in early September, but I know exactly why I was laid off, which I will now explain:

Since last December, I had been one of the many people assigned to design AOL 4.0 for Windows (AOL 4.0 beta, codenamed Casablanca). In the beginning, I was very proud of this task, until I found out the true cost of it. Things were going fine until about mid-February, when me and 2 of my colleagues started to suspect a problem, an unexplainable 'Privacy Invasion', with the new version. One of them, who is a master programmer, copied the finished portion of the new version (Then 'Build 52'), and took it home, and we spent nearly 2 weeks of sleepless nights examining and debugging the program, flipping it inside-out, and here is what we found.

Unlike all previous versions of America Online, version 4.0 puts something in your hard drive called a 'cookie'. (AOL members click <A HREF="a ol://4344:1047.g334.8411481.532897009">here</A> for a definition). However, the cookie we found on Version 4.0 was far more treacherous than the simple internet cookie. How would you like somebody looking at your entire hard drive, snooping through any (yes, any) piece of information on your hard drive. It could also read your password and log in information and store it deep in the program code. Well, all previous versions, whether you like it or not, have done this to a certain extent, but only with files you downloaded. As me and my colleagues discovered, with the new version, anytime you are signed on to AOL, any top aol executive, any aol worker, who has been sworn to secrecy regarding this feature, can go into your hard drive and retrieve any piece of information that they so desire. Billing, download records, e-mail, directories, personal documents, programs, financial information, scanned images, etc ... Better start keeping all those pictures on a floppy disk!

This is a totally disgusting violation of our rights, and your right to know as well. Since this is undoubtably 'Top Secret' information that I am revealing, my life at AOL is pretty much over. After discovering this information, we started to inform a few other workers at America Online, so that we could get a large enough crew to stop this from happening to the millions of unfortunate and unsuspecting America Online members. This was in early August. One month later, all three of us were unemployed. We got together, and figured there was something we had to do to let the public know.

Unemployed, with one of us going through a divorce (me) and another who is about to undergo treatment for Cancer, our combined financial situation is not currently enough to release any sort or article. We attepted to create a web page on three different servers containing in-depth information on AOL 4.0, but all three were taken down within 2 days. We were running very low on time (4.0 is released early this winter), so we figured our last hope to reveal this madness before it effects the people was starting something similar to a chain letter, this letter you are reading. Please do the following, to help us expose AOL for who they really are, and to help us and yourself recieve personal gratification for taking a stand for our freedom:

1. Forward this letter to as many people as you can (not just friends and family, as many as you can!)

2. Tell people who aren't on America Online in person, especially important people (Private Investigators, Government workers, City Council)

3. If the information about the new version isn't exposed by the time aol is released early this winter, for your own protection, DON'T DOWNLOAD AOL 4.0 UNDER ANY CONDITION !!!

Thank you for reading and examining this information. Me and my colleagues hope that you will help us do the right thing in this situation. Enjoy America Online (just kidding!).

Regards, A former AOL employee

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