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Under Scrutiny, AOL Agrees to Change Ads

America Online has agreed to change claims about user security and privacy made in its broadcast advertising after the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus took issue with some of the statements.

"We think AOL's protections are extraordinarily good, but when consumers use the service to venture onto the Web, AOL can't extend its protections," NAD director Andrea Levine told internetnews.com.

"We had some concerns that because of the breadth of the claims, people new to the Internet may not understand that. . . if you use the service to explore the Web you lose those protections," she said.

AOL's ads had said that "At America Online, your security and privacy are always protected."

Levine said the ads came to the NAD's attention through routine monitoring, and AOL agreed to make modifications after discussions were held.

"AOL was wonderful," Levine said. "My staff of attorneys challenges ad claims all the time. . . . They (AOL) were not familiar with NAD. . . they were extremely positive in working with us."

In a statement, AOL reportedly said that it thought that it was important for consumers to understand the difference between privacy and security on AOL, as compared to that on the Internet at large. The company said it intended to make that clear in its advertising.