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Summary:

AT&T was named as a “most trusted company in privacy” by a survey of 99,000 consumers according to the Ponemon Institute. Really? AT&T, the company called out in 2005 for illegal wiretapping on behalf of the U.S. government, was being honored for protecting privacy?

AT&T was named as a “most trusted company in privacy” by a survey of 99,000 consumers, according to the Ponemon Institute, an information security research company. AT&T ranked No. 20 in a survey conducted during the fourth quarter of last year. I flew in late last night from San Francisco, so as first I thought I was seeing things. AT&T, the company called out in 2005 for illegal wiretapping on behalf of the U.S. government, was on a list of companies being honored for privacy?

After a cup of coffee I realized that it was true, and AT&T attributes it all — not to federal immunity and short-term memory loss on behalf of those surveyed — but to improvements to its labyrinthine privacy policies. You see, last summer Ma Bell replaced 17 separate privacy policies with one and now they link to it on every single page of the web site. That’s worth a spot, right? No? Well AT&T even asked its users to comment on the policy before it went into effect. You know, kind of like Facebook did. It also has videos and cut the privacy policy down by 29,000 words.

And the revised privacy policies aren’t terrible (the policy promises an opt-in prior to using deep packet inspection to monitor web surfing), although in most cases the policies adhere to existing federal and state privacy rules rather than go above and beyond them.

However, this is a company that blatantly abused its power at the request of the U.S,. government and even sent emails and web-surfing history to federal officials without telling customers and sans a court order. Is a fresh face on standard privacy policies enough to warrant commendations? Regardless, looks like AT&T’s dollars to found the Future of Privacy think tank is money well-spent.

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  1. It’d be interesting to see where the existent hardware for making “…copies of all emails, web browsing, and other Internet traffic to and from AT&T customers…” comes from. And how it all emanates from a single “fiberoptic splitter” in San Francisco.

    Are you actually accepting that AT&T routes all of its customers’ data through a single point in San Francisco? Or should we accept that the lauded AT&T tech might just be making stuff up out of whole cloth? I’m not sure which is more likely…

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