RealTime IT News

AOL Recasts Privacy Policy

America Online (AOL) is making its first major privacy policy revision since 1998, a company spokesman said today.

The ISP's 20 million U.S. members will be notified by e-mail today and tomorrow and the new policy takes effect Nov. 10. AOL will also post notices on welcome screens and other Web pages.

Under its new rules, AOL will no longer rent or sell mailing lists to retailers.

"We stopped doing this in practice more than a year ago, but this codifies it into the actual policy," Andrew Weinstein, an AOL spokesman, told internetnews.com. "It was a very small part of the business and members told us they didn't want it."

Other changes include practices that are already the norm among most major search engines and Web portals.

Dulles, Va.-based AOL will use information about which AOL sites and pages users visit to personalize content and ads. For example, a user might visit an AOL auto site and be presented with an ad for a new car. AOL will not, however, use information about non-AOL site visits to customize ads or content.

AOL will also use information about member searches to tailor future search results and other content and ads, Weinstein said. Members can opt out of this on a search-by-search basis, or completely.

Weinstein said Yahoo already does this, that MSN has outlined plans to do the same. Google has applied for a patent on the technology this week, he said.

AOL, the online arm of media conglomerate Time Warner , has been looking to retain users through new services and features.