All your data are belong to us.
June 22, 2006 8:43 AM   Subscribe

Privacy Schmivacy On the eve of its hearing on charges that it assisted in the government’s illegal spying on millions of Americans, AT&T, the largest phone company in the United States, has changed its privacy policy to clearly establish its ownership of its customers’ personal account information. In its revised policy, AT&T makes it clear that “while your account information may be personal to you, these records constitute business records that are owned by AT&T. As such, AT&T may disclose such records to protect its legitimate business interests, safeguard others, or respond to legal process." Oh, really?
posted by squirrel (53 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You know, specifically enumerating our Right to Privacy in the US Constitution would clear up so many messy dilemnas, like corporate liability in data thefts, abortion, search and seizure, domestic spying, etc. It a shame one party is too stupid and the other too greedy to realize the legitimate need.
posted by rzklkng at 8:48 AM on June 22, 2006

Urge to kill rising
posted by poppo at 8:51 AM on June 22, 2006

from the last link:
The government contends that even if the NSA program is illegal, the lawsuit should not go forward because it might expose state secrets.

Awesome. So citizens have no recourse over possibly illegal actions, to protect the State? What is the State if not a proxy for its citizens?
posted by raedyn at 8:53 AM on June 22, 2006

And that's it. Finally a reason to dump them for VOIP. I've been waiting for one -- the savings wouldn't be that much as I don't use much long distance -- and now I have one. Is there any way to explain to them that the reason I'm switching is because of this change?
posted by The Bellman at 8:56 AM on June 22, 2006

This is such a get-out-of-liability card for ATT/SBC from the NSA nonsense. I wonder if any interesting shenanigans went down as a condition of their merger regarding the FCC/FTC?
posted by rzklkng at 8:56 AM on June 22, 2006

I've been thinking about adding a Creative Commons (Non-Commercial, No Deviratives?) licensing statement to my credit report. Maybe now's the the time. I think I might also craft a terms-of-service agreement, shrink wrap it with a statement saying that once you've received it, you are bound by its contents without recourse, and send it by registered mail so I have proof someone received it. And then make all sorts of ridiculous demands.
posted by rzklkng at 8:58 AM on June 22, 2006

My SBC DSL has always sucked, and now this. HELLO COMCAST!
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:59 AM on June 22, 2006

I hereby publicly apologize for and renounce the actions I undertook between July of 2002 and September of 2004, during which time I was an employee of AT&T. I am no longer an employee, stockholder or customer of said company.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:00 AM on June 22, 2006

If someone here has a link to a good, comprehensive list of AT&T alternatives in the west coast local phone and DSL markets, please post here. I'm embarrassed by my ignorance of competitors in the local phone service business. Thanks to telecom deregulation, AT&T/SBC is a west coast monolith that blocks out everything else. I really, really want to drop them. Bad. I'll pay double if I have to.
posted by squirrel at 9:02 AM on June 22, 2006

Actually, this policy is necessary for any serious business archive.
posted by jann at 9:11 AM on June 22, 2006

Since this is a unilateral change of terms of service, does this mean I can cancel my PacBell, er SBC, er AT&T DSL service without paying an early termination fee?
posted by twsf at 9:14 AM on June 22, 2006

twsf, probably not, as most companies reserve the right to change their terms and conditions of service at any time (as part of their terms and conditions of service). Wouldn't hurt to try though.
posted by lowlife at 9:19 AM on June 22, 2006

Holy mother effing shite on a shingle.

My grandfather is now spinning so fast in his grave that your seismographs should be picking it up. (He was a long-time AT&T/Bell Labs employee.)

squirrel, I don't think there are any competitors, unless your cable company offers a VOIP package, as many do.

However, note that if the Net Neutrality thing goes against us (previously discussed here), VOIP services will be one of the first things to get hammered with massive extra charges, because AT&T and the other Big Phone Companies own most of the fiber backbone. They will have a perfect and legal opportunity to completely demolish the VOIP competition.

I'm also stuck with "The New at&t" for my local service - unless of course I totally drop my land line and go cell only. I don't use them for DSL but it does run over their lines so looks like I'll have to switch to Comcast cable modem too.

If a corporation owns your personal information, they own YOU. Welcome to the new slavery, kids!!

"I wonder if any interesting shenanigans went down as a condition of their merger regarding the FCC/FTC?"

My guess there would be that the members of the FCC and FTC all got big fat payoffs, ya think?
posted by zoogleplex at 9:25 AM on June 22, 2006

I sure hope all our San Fran MeFi members are going to make an effort to attend that AT&T hearing tomorrow. I wish I could go and make my voice heard.
posted by NationalKato at 9:35 AM on June 22, 2006

I got a prerecorded phone call just a few minutes ago from a phony grass-roots anti-Net Neutrality organization calling themselves TV4US. Their website is at, and unsurprisingly, AT&T is one of their backers. I used their automated senator-contacting form to warn my senators about these guys.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:36 AM on June 22, 2006

So I live in Springfield, Mo. I use SBC (now AT&T) for my DSL. The phone line I use for DSL only (I aven't actually had a phone plugged in for years).

I now wish to ditch AT&T. I no longer wish to do ANY business with them. How do I find what DSL options I have in my are (my city ain't that big). even if I go with another ISP for my DSL do I still havee to use AT&T for the phone line? I would rather go with another phone company now.

Even if I have no choice but to use AT&T for the phone line, yet I pick an alternative ISP, does AT&T still "own" that data, because I use their phone line?

Is there any way to cut off all ties with them?
posted by sourwookie at 9:40 AM on June 22, 2006

i dumped my land line a few years ago and i've never looked back. Mobile phones have become more than good enough replacements.

If i was stuck in a situation where it was AT&T or nothing, i'd choose nothing.
posted by quin at 9:44 AM on June 22, 2006

The cries of outrage and the notion of switching to some outfit that will guard your privacy may well be naive. In fact, it was NSA and not Bush that suggfested to the incoming president that internal monitoring would be useful--and that was prior to0 NSA. Bush merely affirmed what they had suggested. Documents noting this by the NSA are available online under FOI.
posted by Postroad at 9:44 AM on June 22, 2006

Money out of AT&T's pocket is still money out of their pocket. Seeing as BellSouth is about to be AT&T, it seems to be time to chuck the land line.

I do plenty of things on principle, like not shopping at WalMart. This is just one more to add to the list.
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:48 AM on June 22, 2006

Do you not have an equivalent to the Data Protection Act or something?
posted by longbaugh at 10:02 AM on June 22, 2006

posted by sonofsamiam at 10:02 AM on June 22, 2006

And I thought all of those jolly AT&T ads with that obnoxious Oasis song in the background meant that we were getting a benevolent corporate overlord. Ah, how delusions fall .....
posted by blucevalo at 10:38 AM on June 22, 2006

Fuck this noise.... there are no alternatives, every company will eventually fold ... it seems the only way around this is to have multiple identies, or a luddite revolution.
posted by AllesKlar at 10:45 AM on June 22, 2006

Actually there is another solution- -deliberately pollute your own records with so mnay random calls that the snoops can't tell signal from noise.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:47 AM on June 22, 2006

On the bright side, AT&T's policy also comes with a hip ringtone written by They Might Be Giants [MP3 link].
posted by scottreynen at 10:49 AM on June 22, 2006

I didn't realise AT&T was still using the DeathStar logo.
posted by Mitheral at 10:50 AM on June 22, 2006

Time to switch?

I switched to WorkingAssets last month when this NSA stuff first came out.
I recommend them to all of you who need to switch (and you do if you're still giving money to this evil corporation.)

[I am in no way associated BTW, other than a new satisfied customer]
posted by nofundy at 11:10 AM on June 22, 2006

can I get DSL from them?
posted by sourwookie at 11:48 AM on June 22, 2006

I can't decide if it's my rights and protections as a US citizen that are being trampled and taken away, or if it's just the removal of the illusion that I ever had such rights in the first place
posted by LooseFilter at 11:53 AM on June 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

sourwookie, you might have to go cable modem.
posted by zoogleplex at 11:55 AM on June 22, 2006

Time to ditch AT&T for ANY residential communications business. I know I won't be touching them with a 10-mile pole.
posted by vanadium at 12:19 PM on June 22, 2006

C'mon, Vaughn Walker! Don't let us down.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:09 PM on June 22, 2006

I'm with Working Assets too.
I think they are affiliated with Sprint, if I'm not mistaken...
posted by DesbaratsDays at 1:16 PM on June 22, 2006

It really doesn't matter who you go with, does it?
Eventually, in the end, your data will still be running through the big telco's pipes, right?
posted by Thorzdad at 1:28 PM on June 22, 2006

SpeakEasy is an alternative for DSL. I don't use it, but supposedly it rocks. It looks like their server's down at the moment.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:33 PM on June 22, 2006

Damn you, AT&T/SBC, and your $17/month 3 meg/512kbps DSL that I just dropped Time Warner for, because of price!
posted by mrbill at 1:44 PM on June 22, 2006

Pastabagel wins. A database is only useful if it is accurate. What if suddenly, say on July 4th, everyone said that which is not allowed, and dialed 1-800-BIN-LADN?
posted by rzklkng at 1:45 PM on June 22, 2006

A friend had recommended Speakeasy to me just last night - she says you don't even need to pay AT&T for a land line - but I have been unable to get through to their site. What an inopportune time for their site to be inaccessible. Hmmm, I wonder if AT&T has anything to do with that...
posted by twsf at 1:47 PM on June 22, 2006

I have a long standing grudge against SBC/ATT, but have at least a year left on my Cingular contract. I really want to switch carriers because of this but I'm worried that I can't without paying a huge fee.
posted by drezdn at 2:09 PM on June 22, 2006

Meanwhile, in Canada, our Privacy Commissioner is issuing warnings that the American PATRIOT act threatens Canadians' privacy because there are times that Canadians' data flows across borders, and the Privacy Commissioner says Canadian lawmakers need to update our Privacy Act to better control the flow of data, and to disclose when our data crosses borders.
posted by raedyn at 2:11 PM on June 22, 2006

SpeakEasy is an alternative for DSL. I don't use it, but supposedly it rocks. It looks like their server's down at the moment.

Doesn't exactly inspire confidence....
posted by sourwookie at 2:13 PM on June 22, 2006

Maybe they're just hammered by people wanting to switch?

posted by raedyn at 2:33 PM on June 22, 2006

A small warning to those who might be considering a switch to Comcast.
posted by sequential at 3:02 PM on June 22, 2006

GAH. They charge a lot of money to send out a tech, too!

Well, I'm a computer nerd, so I'll do a self-install.

Probably not entirely fair to judge the company by one employee... who's probably a contractor anyway. Not saying Comcast isn't evil, but they're not the phone company.
posted by zoogleplex at 3:14 PM on June 22, 2006

A database is only useful if it is accurate. What if suddenly, say on July 4th, everyone said that which is not allowed, and dialed 1-800-BIN-LADN?

I think we should all start doing that everyday, and spreading the word til millions are doing it every day--Poison the data.

"Hi, Grandma Bin Ladin! How's Grandpa Jihad doing? His Holy Islamic bursitis ok? ..."
posted by amberglow at 3:30 PM on June 22, 2006

Faint of Butt: Thanks for the link! I went ahead and did the same thing.
posted by FormlessOne at 4:03 PM on June 22, 2006

I am a long-time Speakeasy customer, and I have always been thrilled with their customer service. They actually call me back! They actually harass Covad and AT&T on my behalf! They shipped me a new modem for free! Etc., etc. I highly recommend them.

Unfortunately, the DSL carrier service is and can only be provided by Covad, who are a pack of thieves, and is and can only be run over AT&T copper. (I'm speaking of Northern California here.)
posted by nlindstrom at 4:10 PM on June 22, 2006

I'm another big fan of Speakeasy. I've got four static IP's, no usage restrictions, no port blocking, and no traffic shaping.

This all comes in handy when you want to setup a BSD box or two.

True... they have Covad provision the carrier service... and over Hellsouth copper in NORFLA, but I have no love of Comcast nor Bellsouth.



Service has always been bang on, and speeds are nice considering the distance to my CO. Customer service is... helpful and knowledgeable, and never shrift.

It's how EVERY ISP should be.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 7:50 PM on June 22, 2006

I just switched to speakeasy "onelink", which is their DSL service (no ATT involved) and added their VOIP on top. No problems with the install or number port and quality is great.
posted by true at 8:47 PM on June 22, 2006

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