AT&T: All Your Phone Are Belong to Us

If you’re an AT&T customer, you have until this Friday to switch.

After that, you must agree to give them carte blanche ownership of all your phone records, or they shut off your service. Additionally, Ma Bell will track viewers watching its new video program, which cable and satellite operators are forbidden to do.

“While your account information may be personal to you, these records constitute business records that are owned by AT&T,” the company said in a statement.

AT&T has been under fire recently as evidence surfaced of its major complicity in giving the government access to its customers call logs.

Spokesman for the company Marc Bien said there was “no linkage” between the revised policy and recent privacy concerns. Rather, AT&T wishes, “to make our policy much easier to read.”

Some aren’t buying AT&T’s argument.

“They’re obviously trying to avoid a hornet’s nest of consumer-protection lawsuits,” Chris Hoofnagle, a privacy consultant, told the SFGate. “They’ve written this new policy so broadly that they’ve given themselves maximum flexibility when it comes to disclosing customers’ records.”

Time to bust out your price-benefit charts and tinfoil hats.

“AT&T rewrites rules: Your data isn’t yours” [SF Gate] (Thanks to Philip!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Ran Kailie says:

    I wonder if this also includes Cingular which owns AT&T Wireless… but isn’t AT&T but really is?

    That whole situation makes me scratch my head.

  2. desonos says:

    Yeah, I really want to know if this includes Cingular, or if it will in the near future; I am planning on doing either Cingular or Verizion soon, and this is making me think Verizion is the winner.

  3. That would definitely be enough for me to switch to another provider. What makes me nervous is that other companies might not be far behind, at least so long as there’s no widespread customer revolt at AT&T’s move.

  4. Ben says:

    If it includes Cingular, it just so happens that my contract is almost up.

    Like I make any interesting phone calls. It’s the principle of the thing.

  5. ModerateSnark says:

    I’d assume this is the part of ATT bought by SBC (formerly Southern Bell), not the ATT Wireless part bought by Cingular, but I haven’t looked into it.

    I’m going to play the blame game now. Follow my logic.

    The Bush Administration orders the NSA to collect the data. The phone companies are forced to choose between customers’ privacy and looking uncooperative in fighting terrorism. They want to cover themselves legally, and who wouldn’t when placed in a bind like this? Therefore they make their customers give up privacy rights.

    I point my finger at the Bush Administration.

  6. desonos says:

    Yuh, obviously the Bush Administration is at fault, but that is a given at this point. Really, we need someone to do what’s right, and we know they won’t; therefore, I’d expect the companies to do so for fear of losing customers. Guess I was wrong.

  7. As for the Bush Administration, it is their fault. AT&T is just being complicit. However, personally, I trust the Bush administration to only use these records for getting info on terrorists and criminals…but who knows how the next administration will use it, and the next and the next, and so on.

    Once they have this power, they are not going to give it up, and it’s one more step towards 1984.

  8. Brian B says:

    One question: Will this be an opt-in change or opt-out? There’s a big difference between AT&T notifying customers of the upcoming change vs. burying it in an update Terms of Service document after the fact.

    I’d expect the latter (hiding it deep in some mailer no one will ever read) is more likely the case.

  9. Ishmael says:

    Are we getting a mailer? It’s Thursday night and this is the first I’ve seen about it. Even paid my AT&T/SBC/Who-the-hell-ever bill today, and there was nothing in there.

    If I get one soon I’ll send it along.

  10. ModerateSnark says:

    I guess I was stating the obvious about Bush in one sense, but the point was that ATT has been put in a tough position that makes it really difficult for them to “stand up and do the right thing.”

    And this will continue as long as the public accepts the logic that:
    > The president has vitrtually unlimited power in a time of war.
    > The war on terror is a time of war.
    > The war on terror isn’t ending anytime soon, if ever, so get used to it.

    More examination of this issue (with emphasis on NSA wiretaps, etc.) at