Wired Strategies Email Update

Email Forward of AOL Statement January 21, 1998

January 21, 1998 

We have reviewed the matter of the Navy's investigation of Senior Chief (Petty Officer) Timothy R. McVeigh and the Navy's contact with AOL.  The issue of member privacy deeply concerns us and we've worked diligently to determine the facts in the matter and to evaluate how well our policies and procedures are communicated and understood by our employees. 

After completing our review of AOL's role in the U.S. Navy's investigation, we have found: 

1. The Navy deliberately ignored both Federal law and well-established procedures for handling government inquiries about AOL members.  The Navy investigator who telephoned AOL did not identify himself properly and did not reveal the true purpose of his call.  (We have sent letters of protest to the Navy and the Department of Defense insisting they use proper legal procedure in the future). 

2. The investigator misled our representative into confirming information the Navy already possessed about Senior Chief McVeigh, both by failing to disclose his identity and purpose and by portraying himself as a friend or acquaintance of Senior Chief McVeigh's. 

3. Our member services representative did confirm information presented to him by the Navy.  This clearly should not have happened and we regret it. 

We have reviewed our policies and procedures and believe these policies work and are well communicated to AOL member services representatives.  AOL handles more than 1 million customer service calls each week.  On all calls related to billing and member account information, verification procedures are required.  In light of this situation, however, we are instituting additional measures that will reinforce our privacy policies and procedures to our member services representatives. 

This was a case of human error under very unusual circumstances.  We want our members to know that their privacy is of paramount importance to AOL and we take our responsibility to protect it very seriously.  We will do everything we can to maintain that commitment.


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