The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

AT&T Changes Privacy Policy in Wake of Mounting Challenges

by NewStandard Staff

June 26, 2006 – Telecommunications giant AT&T implemented a new privacy policy for its Internet customers on Friday, making explicit the possibility that personal records could be shared with government agents.

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The company faces legal complaints brought by civil-liberties groups for its alleged collaboration in the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping and data-mining programs.

AT&T’s old privacy policy stated that it might disclose customers’ data “to respond to subpoenas, court orders or other legal process, to the extent required and/or permitted by law.�

The new policy adds that personal account data “constitute business records that are owned by AT&T.� It also said the company “may disclose [a customer’s] information… in order to investigate, prevent, or take action regarding illegal activities, suspected fraud, situations involving potential threats to the physical safety of any person, violations of Service Terms or the Acceptable Use Policy, or as otherwise required or permitted by law.�

But the American Civil Liberties Union said that while AT&T’s change might help it reduce its liability for involvement in the US government’s illegal spying, “privacy policies do not trump the laws of the US or individual states.�

The group pointed out that federal law requires telecommunications companies to protect customers’ personal information and to disclose it only as mandated by warrants or other legal orders. The ACLU further noted that several states also have enacted similar restrictions on the sharing of customer information.

“By secretly providing customer data to the government outside of any legal channel,� wrote ACLU in a press statement last Thursday, “AT&T has violated the privacy expectations of Americans - not just the terms of some legalistic privacy policy, but their basic expectations for how private communications will be treated in America.�

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.


This News Brief originally appeared in the June 26, 2006 edition of The NewStandard.
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