AT&T's New Privacy Policy: Full Disclosure

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As of Friday, AT&T's 'privacy policy' will seek to avoid the inconvenience inherent in claiming to provide any actual privacy in this tap-happy world. Instead, Ma Bell promises Pavlovian ass-kissing disclosure the second the NSA comes knocking. The SF Chronicle reports:

The new policy says that AT&T—not customers—owns customers' confidential info and can use it "to protect its legitimate business interests, safeguard others, or respond to legal process."

Moreover, AT&T (formerly known as SBC) is requiring customers to agree to its updated privacy policy as a condition for service—a new move that legal experts say will reduce customers' recourse for any future data sharing with government authorities or others….

The new policy states that AT&T "may also use your information in order to investigate, prevent or take action regarding illegal activities, suspected fraud (or) situations involving potential threats to the physical safety of any person"—conditions that would appear to embrace any terror-related circumstance.

A rep explains that the change has nothing to do with awkward recent events and everything to do with half-literate customers:

"We don't see this as anything new," [spokesman John Britton] said. "Our goal was to make the policy easier to read and easier for customers to understand."

Reason staff gave the NSA something to listen to back in May.

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  1. So glad I dumped their overpriced service three years ago.

  2. I have to accept this damn thing for the foreseeable future because I use Worldnet for my business ISP. 🙁

  3. I have always hated those bass turds but now I hate them even more. I was an SBC customer swallowed by ATT. I think I need to look into a new provider, if that is even possible, once I return to earth.

    And now, I”m going back to the beach. 🙂

  4. BTW, seems like I’ve seen some Reason stuff in the past suggesting that information ought to be non-proprietary. IE, your med records aren’t really yours anyway and neither is your credit info, so why are your phone records different?

    Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh, I know (hear that in an obnoxious Horshak voice),

    …..because the government is doing it.

    But wait, ATT only thinks it’s the government, it really isn’t the government.

    So, it’s okay for TransUnion to pass around your credit info for a fee but not for ATT to turn over your phone habits for free.

    No it’s not apples and oranges. It’s Fuji apples compared to Gala apples.

    Now I really am going back to the beach. Before I get depressed.

  5. Since when are my medical records not mine? Those should be the easiest case to make for being your own since you paid the money to have them generated.

    We should do like in Puerto Rico where the patient gets lab results and x-rays directly from the facility that performs the service and takes the items to the doctors they see. The doctors may make copies if they wish to have something on record.

    I do not like asking the doctor’s office to give me back what is mine anyway.

  6. Right now I’m speaking from the belly of the whale too.

    pwned!!

  7. I went to sign up on verizon about 2 weeks ago–they had a similarly draconian policy

    “Verizon reserves the right to cooperate with legal authorities and/or injured third parties in the investigation of any suspected crime or civil wrong. Such cooperation may include, but not be limited to, provision of account or user information or email as well as monitoring of the Verizon network.”

    as well as other clauses whose emphasis was more directed to the right of Verizon to kick you off if you rubbed them the wrong way. In addition to the usual and customary boilerplate such as

    “Verizon may terminate the Service upon notice to you for any reason”–I mean, what could be more reasonable–there was a lot of stuff like

    “You agree…to post or transmit information or communications that, whether explicitly stated, implied, or suggested through use of symbols, are obscene, indecent, pornographic, sadistic, cruel, or racist in content, or of a sexually explicit or graphic nature; or which espouses, promotes or incites bigotry, hatred or racism; or which might be legally actionable for any reason” and

    Verizon reserves the right to deny Service to you, or immediately to terminate your Service for material breach, if your use of the Service or your use of an alias or the aliases of additional users on your account, whether explicitly or implicitly, and in the sole discretion of Verizon: (a) is obscene, indecent, pornographic, sadistic, cruel or racist in nature, or of a sexually explicit or graphic nature; (b) espouses, promotes or incites bigotry, hatred or racism; (c) might be legally actionable for any reason, (d) is objectionable for any reason, or (e) in any manner violates the terms of this Acceptable Use Policy.

    “to damage the name or reputation of Verizon, its parent, affiliates and subsidiaries, or any third parties” and

    “Verizon reserves the right to cooperate with legal authorities and/or injured third parties in the investigation of any suspected crime or civil wrong. Such cooperation may include, but not be limited to, provision of account or user information or email as well as monitoring of the Verizon network.”

    I particularly liked the “is objectionable for any reason” assertion…this cleared it up for me.

    Personally, I didn’t subscribe, and I would rather not have the benefits of the internet than succumb to this garbage…easy for me to say now since I connect mostly through my college’s network. When the customer service note came up asking me why I didn’t subscribe, I told them , and, for the moment, I suppose they have simply written me off as a crank. I wonder how many principled rejections of their service it would take before they respected my viewpoint as much as the FCC respects the viewpoint of form letters generated by the Parents’ Television Council

    (you can file your own complaint at
    https://www.parentstv.org/ptc/fcc/fcccomplaint2.asp

    But my personal and relatively impotent response aside, I am pretty much in despair about the bigger social and political picture rerpresented by such practices.

  8. TWC,
    SBC swallowed AT&T, not vice versa. SBC just figured the AT&T brand had more cache, so they used the name as well.

    And this is a load of shite. Quick question, is there any phone company that doesn’t have this policy? A cell company would be best.

  9. A rep explains that the change has nothing to do with awkward recent events and everything to do with half-literate customers:

    I’d be inclined to agree. Has anyone ever seriously been under the impression the information collected by their service providers (and virtually anyone else you do business with) wasn’t being used in the manner described? Realistically, any transaction which generates a record of any sort has the potential to come back and haunt you. Caveat Emptor.

  10. Mo, didn’t know that SBC swallowed ATT. I gotta pay more attention.

    There is one phone company that told NSA to pound salt and I cannot remember which one May have been Qwest) but Reason and the Man In Black mentioned it more than once around the time that all the ATT/NSA shite was going down a few weeks ago.

    Now I’m off to the beach. Well, in the morning anyway.

  11. Jimmyboy, can they hear you now?

  12. There is no privacy anymore. Just get over it and live with the fact that a sufficiently stubborn person can figure out what flavor of porn floats your boat, that you are in the market for a new plasma TV, and that you still call grandma every Sunday.

  13. If the authorities have specific reasons to get information about specific persons, then I don’t think that the phone companies have any choice but to comply. But grabbing reams of personal data without reason for the express purpose of going back after the fact is NOT defensible as it clearly violates the Fourth Amendment.

    “…and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

    Of course, maybe the Founding Fathers wrote the 4th in language sufficiently vague (?) because they foresaw the possible need for the government to round up everybody and then charge the bad guys once they found something that would stick.

    *sarcasm*

  14. When privacy is made criminal then only criminals will have, um, privacy?

    Alternative…Rejoice in the anonymity of crowds…Buy from someone who has a privacy policy you agree with…give up the internet and move to Idaho (sorry Idahoans, nothing personal)…vote…or rant on H&R. All things I’ve considered doing, then realized it isn;t that important to me…well, except for that last one.

  15. Off-topic, but Verizon is totally on my shit list. They got more creative accountants than Enron. It’s going to take me hours to unravel a bunch of bullshit bills they claim are outstanding.

    Please take my advice. DON’T DON’T DON’T enroll in a “one bill” service with Verizon if you get multiple services (cell, internet, land line, etc). These asshole departments dont’ work well with each other. They’re worse than the government.

  16. These asshole departments dont’ work well with each other. They’re worse than the government.

    OB Comment: Unfortunately we can’t opt-out of the government.

  17. It’s going to take me hours to unravel a bunch of bullshit bills they claim are outstanding.

    Yep. The remaining $9.43 “unregulated” charge on my (Bell South) phone bill for the Verizon service I never ordered using the Verizon phones I have never owned has been there since January. I expect them to admit the error at about the same time the troops come home.

  18. M’:
    The way these douchebags can fuck with your credit, they’re ALMOST as bad as the government, as far as your power (lack of) against them.

    ed:
    I hate them. I spent an hour talking to some short-tempered Verizon twat on the phone, and very specifically asked her to send me the last three months’ worth of ITEMIZED statements, so I can get a fix on what exactly they are claiming (which I strongly believe is false).

    What did I get in the mail? Just a simple sheet telling me I owe them $152.23

    I dropped their internet and land-line. Once my cell phone’s contract is up, I’m going to drop that fucker, too. Douchebags.

  19. MNG,

    I wouldn’t pay shit…just keep asking for their supervisor on the phone. Usually that can get you somewhere and maybe even to someone that speaks English as their L1. But then I’ve never dealt with Verizon.

    When SBC kept screwing up the internet bill they at least refunded the overcharge each time until they fixed it but then there was another interesting incident.

  20. Speaking, like The Wine Commonsewer & Mo, from inside the beasts (A & V): What would any one expect? A corporation exists, in current society, as a licensed extension of the state. When you must apply to the government(s) for permission to exercise your business, including “begging” for approval to non-coercively buy/merge with a rival (see: S.E.C.), you are simply an extended arm of the government that currently grants you the privilege of offering products and/or services to the market. I won’t even start in about how almost all businesses, corporate, partnership, sole proprietorships, and all, irregardless of whether they are “publicly traded” or “privately held”, are forced to collect the State’s tribute/extortion from their customers.

    Now I will sit back and wait for the knock at the door … Oops – They don’t have to Knock any more!

  21. “There is one phone company that told NSA to pound salt and I cannot remember which one”

    It was Qwest.

  22. Qwest is the good company. They refused to bow before NSA.

    In completely unrelated news, their CEO was charged with a variety of white collar crimes and is currently fighting to remain a free man. This is of course completely unrelated.

  23. When privacy is made criminal then only criminals will have, um, privacy?

    Exactly.

  24. Despite the fact that the former CEO of Qwest has been targeted by the black bag operators, we should not lose faith in the national security state. They still need the power to detain people without trial or charges, or try people in military courts where all of the judges address the President, Vice President, NSA Director, and Secretary of Defense as “Sir.”

  25. In completely unrelated news, their CEO was charged with a variety of white collar crimes and is currently fighting to remain a free man.

    Are you saying that the charges are baseless?

  26. thoreau,

    Probably not. Here’s a Business Week summary of the Qwest situation:

    Former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio was indicted last December on 42 federal charges of insider trading accusing him of illegally selling off $101 million in stock. In July 2005, Robin Szeliga, former CFO, pleaded guilty to one criminal count of insider trading to become the highest ranking officer to admit wrongdoing in a scandal that forced the telephone company to erase billions of dollars in revenue. She has reached a plea bargain in the SEC case, agreeing to cooperate with federal investigators. On March 3, former Qwest executive Marc B. Weisberg was fined $250,000 and sentenced to 60 days of home detention after pleading guilty to wire fraud. Last December he pleaded guilty to a single charge of wire fraud in a deal that requires him to cooperate with prosecutors trying to convict Nacchio.

    Qwest agreed last year to pay $250 million to settle SEC charges of fraud in a deal that did not include individuals.

    Yeah, maybe it’s all a government plot, but it sounds like there are some other shenanigans going on at Qwest. Too bad. At least they defy the government–that’s a point in their favor in my book.

  27. OK, maybe I jumped the gun.

  28. thoreau,

    Maybe. Or maybe next month I’ll be posting a Wall Street Journal article on why the government is perscut–I mean, prosecuting you.

    [Cue maniacal laughter]

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