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SUMMARY

Outing at America Online

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In a November 7 court hearing, a Navy official testified that an America Online (AOL) staff member carelessly outed a member of the country's largest online service provider. Navy Submariner Timothy R. McVeigh (no relation to the Oklahoma City bomber) was discharged from 17 years of service after AOL allegedly gave United States Navy staff legalman Joseph M. Kaiser the name and state of a profile he was investigating. Kaiser alleges a tech services staff member named Owen just gave him the information when he identified himself as a "third party in receipt of a fax and wanted to confirm the [member] profile sheet, (and) who it belonged to." According to the court transcript, McVeigh's defense attorney asked Kaiser, "He gave you information that links (AOL) members screen names with the member's actual name? Sounds like that's what you've done." Kaiser replied, "Yes, that is correct." The rest of the transcript can be found at McVeigh's Web site at http://www.geocities.com/Pentagon/9241/KAIS.HTML.

This brings into serious question the right to privacy on the service provider. AOL has a strict policy that explicitly prohibits the company from giving out any personal information about its members. Unfortunately, according to the U.S. Navy, under oath, this is not always the case, with disastrous results. The Internet has offered the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community a safe place to find out more information about the community. And given the hostile atmosphere of the military and other segments of American society to gay people, breaking established rules of confidentiality can jeopardize people's careers and the health and security of individuals and their families. By time of publication, AOL did not return comment to GLAAD regarding the matter. To other sources AOL has denied they told the Navy anything. On January 8, AOL shut down McVeigh's e-mail account without prior notice-the same day the New York Times Online and C-Net ran stories on McVeigh's plight.

ACTION

Please write AOL and tell them that whether or not the allegations are true, such an invasion of privacy is intolerable. Demand that AOL expediently investigate and publicly respond to the matter.

Contact:

Steve Case, President and CEO, America Online,
8619 Westwood Center Drive, Vienna, VA 22182
e-mail: SteveCase@aol.com

 


 

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Drop a note to Deborah at gaylesissues@rslevinson.com

copyright 1986-2010 Deborah Levinson