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AOL Conditions for Giving Cops Info

May 27, 1999

Some of America Online’s conditions for releasing information on customers to investigators:

_No disclosure except under ``valid legal process″ such as search warrant, subpoena or other court order.

_Under a search warrant, AOL may turn over any relevant e-mail, similar content and personal identifying information.

_AOL says it generally keeps unread e-mail in its own system for 28 days; e-mail that has been read for two days. Customers have the option of storing it longer on the server, as well as keeping it in their own computers. In the case of a Virginia customer charged with possessing child pornography, images sent by e-mail over nearly six months were found, the FBI says.

_In civil cases, AOL won’t release e-mail but may give out personal identifying information in response to a subpoena or other court order. The member whose information is to be disclosed is given two weeks notice in case he or she wishes to contest the order.

_Public chat rooms are monitored for inappropriate content and AOL has a detailed process for handling complaints and terminating service to members who violate rules.

_AOL does not keep records of member passwords.

_The FBI keeps a database containing customer complaints that have been forwarded to the bureau by AOL, federal officials say. Customers who see child pornography online may complain to AOL. When an AOL screen name is identified in an FBI investigation, the database is checked to see if any complaints exist.

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