Monday, 31 January 2011

IM & chat privacy - deletion of logs or accounts

Deleting your IM account or chat logs seems tough or impossible with most popular IM services. So Matija Šuklje discovered in looking at popular instant messaging or chat clients / systems, where he reported as follows -

  • AIM - almost impossible to delete account - he didn't mention what happens to logs.
  • ICQ - can't delete account, and yes indeedy it seems all copyright / intellectual property in everything you post using ICQ are thereby belong to them!
    • By the way the link he gave on his blog was to different terms. The extract he quoted was in fact from ICQ's acceptable use policy, and it sez what he sed. At least today it does:

        You agree that by posting any material or information anywhere on the ICQ Services and Information you surrender your copyright and any other proprietary right in the posted material or information. You further agree that ICQ LLC. is entitled to use at its own discretion any of the posted material or information in any manner it deems fit, including, but not limited to, publishing the material or distributing it.

  • MSN / WLM - logs kept forever, he says, but it's easy to delete the account.
  • YIM - account can be deleted, again that doesn't mean logs are deleted. 

(Most people already know about Gtalk / Gmail chats being spied on by a Google employee. You can have off the record chats which, one hopes, can't be monitored.)

He says he's moving over to XMPP (Jabber) only, on Gabbler, away from proprietary IM protocols, perhaps understandably.

See also, for anyone interested in this area, Google's data retention periods for some of their services.

EU legislators and privacy regulators are, as previously presaged, now considering introducing a "right to be forgotten", or right of oblivion, into EU data protection law. If they do no doubt it is likely to give people the right to delete their accounts and to insist that their logs are deleted once they cancel or terminate their accounts. Not just IM or chat, but probably other types of online accounts too.

This area is pretty topical right now - there's even an entire book, Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age (summary) by Oxford University Prof Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, which for anyone who's not come across it yet "looks at the surprising phenomenon of perfect remembering in the digital age, and reveals why we must reintroduce our capacity to forget".

Aka - "Your compromising or embarrassing pics on Facebook or videos on YouTube could scupper forever your chances of being hired, promoted, elected etc forever, so what should we do about it"? Introduce self-destructing text eg using Vanish, or expiration dates for digital photos?

©WH. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike England 2.0 Licence. Please attribute to WH, Tech and Law, and link to the original blog post page. Moral rights asserted.