AOL to Revise Privacy Claim

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America Online agreed to revise its security and privacy statement after the Better Business Bureau's National Advertising Division said it could confuse customers.


The NAD criticized AOL's assertion that "At America Online, your security and privacy are always protected," saying that consumers new to the Internet could interpret the claim to mean that AOL can protect a member's privacy and security while surfing any site on the Internet.


"We agree that it is important for consumers to understand the difference between the strong privacy and security protections that AOL offers its members .... as opposed to the Internet at large, which may not always offer the same protections," according to an AOL statement. "We will make that clear in our advertising as we focus on the significant security and protective measures that we offer our members."


The bureau asked AOL to substantiate the privacy claim, which it did by explaining that AOL will not read members' e-mail, review instant messages or enter private chat rooms "unless required to do so by law." It also does not track members' activities on the Web. The online service told NAD it does gather information about the areas visited by members. However, AOL said it only uses this information "in the aggregate" and does not sell or disseminate demographic, navigational or financial information on its members to outside companies.


NAD also asked AOL to substantiate the claim: "Special software encodes and protects your credit cards every time you buy online through AOL." However, AOL said it had already stopped using the claim in ads and commercials and would not use it in the future.


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