If your online privacy is of great concern to you it’s a good idea to avoid downloading the new preview version of AOL Instant Messenger.
Privacy rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) discovered that AOL was storing more logs of communications on its servers, scanning all private IMs for URLs to pre-fetch and store for later use.
In a statement the EFF noted:
“[We recommend] that AIM users do not switch to the new version, as it introduces important privacy-unfriendly features.”
The new program begins working the moment a user signs into the new AIM. User information is stored for up to two months, although that time span could be longer.
AOL says its intent is to make pulling message history easier from multiple devices, while privacy experts argue that it makes law enforcement and national security subpoenas more powerful. On the other hand a security breach at AOL could expose a users conversations to outside groups.
In their recommendations for AOL the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) gave the following suggestions:
“AOL should not set logging as the default and it should not be permanent. Instead, logging should be opt-in and “off-the-record” mode should be robust and prominent in the user interface. Until AOL has either made this change or, better yet, worked to encrypt all of your logged conversations in such a way that only you can read them—a much harder solution, we admit, but doable—current AIM users who are worried about other parties accessing their data should think twice about upgrading.”
For their part the EFF says AOL has been receptive to their suggestions and work to inform users about all options made available to them.