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Welcome to "Egad! It's Monday!" weekly commentary for: August 29th, 1999

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A Letter to Bruce Leak, President of Webtv

Date: Wed, Aug 25, 1999, 4:23pm
Subject: Distressed!

I was very distressed to read the following information:

(This information inside the asterisks is from information found at the following URL:

****WebTV claims not to pass on our true identities to advertisers is NO guarantee our information is safe. The simple fact is WebTV keeps this information. What private info WebTV keeps and for how long, they refuse to disclose. This failure to be forthcoming with its subscribers is extremely troubling. Not only is it potentially subject to abuse within WTV, but there is a growing trend to subpoena ISP records in civil cases. Unwitting Subscribers may have official WebTV Logs used against them in court never knowing that the information had ever been collected! Even if legal considerations are not a concern... who can be comfortable knowing the WebTV service is akin to Big Brother... watching everything they do? Furthermore... since WebTV reserves the right to change its TOS at its sole discretion... who knows what WebTV will do with our private data tomorrow?

WEBTV's TOS: GOOD FAITH & INFORMED CONSENT? In an October magazine article former WebTV president Steve Perlman was quoted: "It not only makes ethical sense to protect peoples' privacy, in the end it makes economic sense. Because if they feel they're being watched or don't feel safe, they're not going to use your service," That is a curious statement from the president of a ISP who must have known ALL the data being tracked... see above. Be that as it may... let's examine WebTV's actual corporate behavior for signs of these "ethical concerns". Leaving aside for a moment things like the Print, Credit Card, Chat Logs etc, one might think that before any company began such a massive invasion of a family's private TV viewing habits, as WebTV did, their "ethical concerns" would have had made it imperative to fully inform its subscribers.... or offer an "opt-in" option.****

I have read this information before from other sources but now I have decided to let you know how I feel about it. I have told SO many people how wonderful webtv is and how easy it is to use. That will change, and if something isn't done about this lack of privacy, you can be sure that we will look into investing into a computer. And you can be sure that if it comes to this, everyone I know will know why I have changed, from a loyal webtv user to a pc user. I hope my letter adds to that ever growing pile of other concerned users and goads you to change your policies. Heck, if you have a conscience, you will do anything you can to change it. Remember the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have done unto you. Is what, the company you lead, doing to us what you would want for yourself and your family?

M4W3 Webmaster

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