Yahoo DSL? No way.

Discussion in 'other software & services' started by luv2bsecure, Dec 29, 2002.

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  1. luv2bsecure

    luv2bsecure Infrequent Poster

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    Note: The following goes for ALL Yahoo - SBC/Yahoo ISP users and NOT just Pac Bell.....This is simply unbelievable. At least they're honest: (from the story below) "Once you create an SBC Yahoo account and sign in to our services, you are not anonymous to us," Yahoo warns in surprisingly stark language.


    Pacific Bell may be taking on a new name, but it's still up to the same old tricks.
    by David Lazarus
    San Francisco Chronicle

    The company's customers were outraged when I wrote how Pac Bell, which now wants to be known by the moniker of its corporate parent, SBC, slipped an insert into recent bills advising that personal information will be shared with business partners unless the customer says otherwise.

    Pac Bell is currently e-mailing high-speed Internet subscribers urging them to download new software to accommodate the company's marketing partner, Yahoo.

    The upgrade, Pac Bell promises, will provide "incredible new features and services."

    What the company isn't saying is that Pac Bell DSL subscribers will be exposed to a whole new world of commercial exploitation as Yahoo mines their personal information and online habits to blitz them with ads and enroll them in unwanted marketing schemes.

    SBC won't say how many DSL customers Pac Bell has, but acknowledges that the majority of the parent company's 2 million subscribers nationwide are in California.

    According to Yahoo's -- not Pac Bell's -- privacy policy for DSL subscribers, the Sunnyvale Internet powerhouse will make use of "information about you that is personally identifiable like your name, address, e-mail address or phone number, and that is not otherwise publicly available."

    That's not the half of it. For some services, Yahoo says it will request Pac Bell customers' Social Security number "and information about your assets."

    The online company says it will track DSL subscribers' Internet browsing and share personal information with "trusted partners." Such info will be used in part "to customize the advertising and content you see."

    "Once you create an SBC Yahoo account and sign in to our services, you are not anonymous to us," Yahoo warns in surprisingly stark language.

    Yet nowhere is any of this spelled out in the Pac Bell/SBC privacy policy that most Pac Bell customers would see -- if they're among the relatively tiny handful of people who wade through all that fine print.

    Pac Bell says only that "Yahoo has its own privacy policy and may use your personal information in ways which are different than SBC's policy contemplates."

    How's that for full disclosure?

    Larry Meyer, an SBC spokesman, said that the language in Pac Bell's privacy policy is clear enough and that customers aren't being hoodwinked.

    "We think we're being very straightforward," he told me. "The two privacy policies are right there for users to see."

    That is, if Pac Bell DSL subscribers are willing to go to the trouble of reading not one but two separate privacy policies, especially the one for the company that they never intended to be a customer of in the first place.

    Nissa Anklesaria, a Yahoo spokeswoman, said she too believes Pac Bell customers are being given ample opportunity to understand that their personal information is going to be spread among even more marketers than before.

    "We're very comfortable with the way we've presented the information to SBC DSL users," she said.

    But unless those users read both policies, they won't know that Yahoo monitors and records all visits to the thousands of Web pages constituting the Yahoo network, plus Yahoo's online classified listings, Hotjobs.

    Also, while SBC's privacy policy says the company will use customers' information "to investigate complaints and protect SBC Yahoo and its members," Yahoo's policy takes this sort of thinking a step further. It says:

    "We believe it is necessary to share 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 Yahoo's terms of use or as otherwise required by law."

    This significantly more proactive policy will be unknown to Pac Bell customers unless they take it upon themselves to learn about how Yahoo operates.

    There's nothing wrong with SBC and Yahoo having their own privacy policies. But when Pac Bell DSL subscribers are being pushed to switch to the new-and- improved SBC Yahoo service, you'd think Pac Bell would be bending over backward to inform them about how things are changing.

    "This information is readily accessible," SBC's Meyer insisted. "You can easily compare the two privacy policies."

    You can just as easily choose another DSL provider.

    MUM'S THE WORD: Speaking of keeping things quiet, perhaps you saw a federal judge's decision the other day rejecting Congress' efforts to find out whom Vice President Dick Cheney met with last year while formulating national energy policy.

    U.S. District Court Judge John Bates, who was appointed to the bench by President Bush, ruled that the lawsuit brought by Congress' General Accounting Office undercut the administration's ability to shape domestic policy.

    Bush and Cheney have both argued that details of Cheney's talks with energy industry leaders need to be kept secret so that the White House can receive "unvarnished advice" on important issues.

    My thinking is that if those documents supported the administration's contention that Enron and its cronies had no influence over official policy, they'd have been released long ago.

    We'll probably never know for sure, though.


    David Lazarus' column appears Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. He also can be seen regularly on KTVU's "Mornings on 2." Send tips or feedback to dlazarus@sfchronicle.com.

    ©2002 San Francisco Chronicle | Feedback

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