AT&T: All your data are belong to us (and temp. demo.)

Jingle. Hello? Sorry to bother you, but it's IT Blogwatch, in which AT&T "revises" its privacy policy, to the consternation of many. Not to mention the oh-so-polite S. Korean protest march by temps...

Didn't we used to call it Ma Bell? Not any more: "AT&T Inc. said yesterday that it was revising its privacy policy, explaining to customers that it owns their phone records and can hand them over to law enforcement officials if necessary. The changes take effect tomorrow and come at a time when AT&T and other phone companies face lawsuits claiming that they aided a U.S. government domestic spying program by giving the National Security Agency call records of millions of customers without their permission. AT&T said the updated policy was aimed at helping customers understand its practices better and does not change how it treats customer information ... Under the new policy, which is being mailed out to AT&T's more than 7 million Internet customers, the company also said that it would track viewing information for customers of a television service it's developing, in order to help it make recommendations to customers based on their viewing habits."

» GMSV's John Paczkowski lodges tongue firmly in cheek: "How convenient ... It's simple coincidence that AT&T, on the eve of a hearing on charges that it assisted in the government’s illegal spying on millions of Americans, changes its privacy policy to reserve the unqualified right to exploit the personal information of its customers in any way the company sees fit? Riiiiggggghhhhtttt.....(rolls eyes)."

» Ars's Nate Anderson says it was done, "ostensibly to harmonize it with BellSouth's as the two companies prepare for the merger that will officially make AT&T a 'megagoogalopolly.' Some critics, though, see the 'BellSouth claim' as a smokescreen designed to cover up the fact that AT&T is actually reacting to the EFF lawsuit against it by giving the company cover to turn over data to the NSA ... [channel] tracking is illegal for most cable companies, though AT&T has long insisted that its service is something unique, and therefore exempt from such requirements. This is a controversial claim, and one that's currently being tested by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, which sees no reason why AT&T should be allowed to use a separate rulebook."

» Joy-Ann Reid offers a "spittle-flecked" opinion: "My former phone company says, silly customer, your personal data may seem personal, but in fact, it really belongs to the corporation. Everything belongs to the corporation.... I finally completed my extrication from the company this week, thank God ... Thanks for sharing, AT&T. And goodbye."

» Computerworld's Jerri Ledford explores the conundrum: "would it surprise you to know that any information you provide to a company can be construed to belong to them? Wait. Does that mean that providing your name and address to a business means they have the ability to use it as they please? Or, if you're the company that's collecting the data, does your customer data belong to your company to do with as it pleases?"

» But our pseudonymous C. J. Kelly writes: "Do I care if AT&T turns my phone records over in response to court subpoenas?  Not one wit.  I am not involved in any illegal activity and have nothing to hide.  But, still the feeling that I have no privacy is pervasive ... It's a catch-22.  I want to be protected, but I have to give up my privacy in order for that to occur ... the phone record angst I have is petty. There are so many more important things to worry about."

» Stephen Bissette's rant: "Time to be attentive, folks ... This will have major repercussions, as other telecommunication firms and corporate entities quickly follow suit, most likely with relative invisibility. I mean, how many of you really read that fine print accompanying your bills? Before you click 'I accept' online? ... Of course, AT & T is softballing this news ... I love how they spin this. The policy is 'aimed at helping" you -- not profiting AT&T and getting their fat out of the various legal fires ... thus protecting and profitting AT&T beyond what was reality until tomorrow morning. Got that? ... AT&T and their banks of attorneys and research experts take six months to design, streamline and spin this radical new policy, with multiple paths of legal, business and industry venues extrapolated and determined -- you've got two f***ing days."

» Mike Cornwell shrugs: "Hopefully you have a choice in your area and can switch carriers. But that probably won't help for long as others such as Verizon, Quest etc will probably follow suit. Maybe they should just change their name to USATelecom as in ChinaTelecom. At least when I was in China my cell phone always worked."

» Martin McKeay is looking for a new long distance carrier: "there is only one recourse I can take, voting with my money. Which is going to be hard in my area, since they are currently responsible for a majority of the services available to me. But this is a big enough issue that I'm willing to take the time to find alternatives."

Buffer overflow:

    Around the Net

    Around Computerworld

And finally... Temps of the World, Unite!

Richi Jennings is an independent technology and marketing consultant, specializing in email, blogging, Linux, and computer security. A 20 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. Contact Richi at

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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