Thursday, June 29, 2006

More fallout from Sympatico privacy upset

I reported earlier this week that some people are upset, seeing changes in the Bell Sympatico user agreement as a harbinger of wholesale monitoring of internet use by that service's users (Canadian Privacy Law Blog: Bell warns customers about privacy loss with lawful access). A bit more info is coming to the fore.

Bell has denied that this is the case. A Bell representative has weighed in on a chat hosted by the Globe & Mail: : Jack Kapica on who's watching your surfing

Hi Jack, Paolo here from Bell, I am following your online chat about yesterday's news regarding Sympatico user agreements.

Some facts that you should be aware of:

1) Reporter implies with his wire story that we are monitoring our customers - an absolute incorrect statement. Our official statement sent out last night to this reporter and several other as follows:

a. Bell Canada has a long and established history of protecting the privacy of its customers. Bell collaborates with law enforcement agencies only when presented with legitimate court-ordered warrants. To suggest that we are illegally or routinely monitoring our customers is inaccurate and false.

2) The Bell Sympatico user agreement is in no way connected to pending bill C-74 in front of the House, as suggested. This is a standard user agreement accepted by our customers.

For clarity, here is the full clause in the Sympatico User Agreement in which the reporter did not capture correctly and is referring to:

Clause 17 of the Sympatico Service Agreement reads as follows:

User Information; Other Information. Your messages may be the subject of unauthorized third party interception and review. An individual with Internet access can cause, among other things, damage, incur expenses and enter into contractual obligations while on the Internet. All such matters are your sole responsibility. Your Service Provider has no obligation to monitor the Service, any content or your use of Your Service Provider's networks. However, you agree that Your Service Provider reserves the right from time to time to monitor the Service electronically, monitor or investigate content or your use of Your Service Provider's networks, including without limitation bandwidth consumption, and to disclose any information necessary to satisfy any laws, regulations or other governmental request from any applicable jurisdiction, or as necessary to operate the Service or to protect itself or others.

You hereby acknowledge that Your Service Provider, its affiliates, agents and suppliers may retain and use any information, comments or ideas conveyed by you relating to the Service (including any products and services made available on the Service). This information may be used to provide you with better service.

Your Service Provider may send you Service related information on a regular basis via email addressed to your Sympatico parent email address. You agree to review and to familiarize yourself with all such Service related information, and Your Service Provider is not liable for any damage or detriment to you or your property resulting from your failure to do so. Your continued use of the Service following delivery of any such Service related information means that you accept and agree to comply with such information.

Paolo Pasquini, Associate Director

Bell Canada Media Relations

I write privacy policies and website terms of use agreements all the time. Like any contract, you need to be very careful with the words you use and the possible interpretations those words can bear. Even if Sympatico has no itent to start trolling users activities, that is a very poor choice of wording. With the level of paranoia out there, it was inevitable that this pargraph would be interpreted this way and would cause such an uproar.

More coverage:

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