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An AOL Member Writes to AOL and Receives Canned (Inapplicable) Responses

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These letters are reprinted by permission of JAffuso, who took the time to try and take AOL to task for their action in the McVeigh matter. You'll see how responsive AOL was. Or, as he put it, "I give up, they just don't get it."

Subj: Re:Re: AOL and the McVeigh Discharge by the Navy
Date: 98-01-23 14:45:46 EST
From: techprob@aol.net
To: jaffuso@aol.com

Dear jaffuso,

I am writing to you on behalf of America Online to answer your recent question/comments.

I'm sorry, we were not able to determine exactly what type of America Online assistance you need based on your question. If you could clarify your question for us, or send us additional information about your request, we will be happy to help you in any way we can. 

If the problem seems particularly complex, or if you desire a quick response, please call us on our toll free number at 1-888-265-8006, so we may speak with you directly. Technical Support is available from 6 am to 2 am Eastern time.

Thank you for using America Online. If you have any further questions or comments, please feel free to email us anytime

Ted M
Customer Care Consultant
America Online, Inc.

-------------------------

YOU MUST BE JOKING. Mr. Case, maybe your General Counsel or your public relations person should coordinate with your Members Services division and give a RESPECTFUL response, rather than the drivel presented below. Because I receive news clippings from AOL, I am already aware of AOL's response to the Navy and the Department of Defense, having read your press release. Is it too much to ask for the same information as a response to a serious question,
rather than the canned bullshit answer supplied below? I continue to be disappointed by the actions of AOL in this matter.

In a message dated 98-01-22 15:05:58 EST, you write:

Subj: Re:Re: AOL and the McVeigh Discharge by the Navy
Date: 98-01-22 15:05:58 EST
From: techprob@aol.net
To: jaffuso@aol.com

Dear jaffuso,

I am writing to you on behalf of America Online to answer your recent question/comments.

"AOL has a clear policy with regard to protecting the privacy of member information. Customer service representatives such as myself simply do not give out any member information to anyone other than verified account holders. Every customer service rep is aware of this policy. It is central to AOL's customer service philosophy."

Thank you for using America Online. If you have any further questions or comments, please feel free to email us anytime.

A. LEE
Customer Care Consultant
America Online, Inc.

-------------------------

I sent Steve Case the following message:

Date: 98-01-15 23:09:30 EST
From: JAffuso
To: Steve Case

Mr Case,

I have been an AOL subscriber for several years. I am also a gay man and a former Lieutenant in the United States Army. I write because I am very troubled to read recent reports that the Navy is discharging member Timothy McVeigh (no relation to the Oklahoma City bomber) due to information contained in his membership profile. The Navy received a tip the a profile was his, but had no proof.

They contacted your company and one of your representatives allegedly provided the Navy with Mr. McVeigh's name and confirmed that the account was his. Mr. McVeigh is now facing discharge after a top notch 17 year Navy career.
Please explain to me how AOL would turn over information to Navy investigators solely based on a phone call and not a subpoena or court order. The Navy illegally asked your company for information, in violation of Don't Ask, Don't Tell,
Don't Pursue and you provided it to them.

I would like to know what AOL is doing to:

1) Prevent this from ever occurring again
2) Help to protest and prevent the pending discharge of a patriotic American
who's only crime is to be suspected of being gay.

I expect a response and a policy statement from you and AOL. Until then, no non-openly gay members of the military who have accounts with AOL are free from this type of invasive action by the military. 

John Affuso

In a message dated 98-01-20 16:47:40 EST, you write:

Dear jaffuso,

I am responding in behalf of Mr.Case, to your letter concerning the privacy issue on AOL.

"AOL has a clear policy with regard to protecting the privacy of member information. Customer Care Consultants such as myself simply do not give out any member information to anyone other than verified account holders. Every Customer Care Consultant is aware of this policy. It is central to AOL's customer service philosophy."

Thank you again for using America Online, and if you have any further questions or comments, please feel free to write again. You can call our toll free Member Support (1-888-265-8006 for Tech Support or 1-888-265-8003 for Billing), or contact our online help.

Sincerely yours,

Laird
Member Services

First of all, you should go back and REREAD your policy statement, because in the case of Mr. McVeigh, a member of your staff violated the policy by willingly furnishing membership information to Navy Investigators.

Second, I believe that a response from "Member Services" and not Steve Case is TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE.

Third, I demand to know what America Online is going to do to attempt to save the career of Mr. McVeigh, a career which they have helped the Navy to destroy.

Finally, I asked what Steve Case and AOL are going to do to make sure that this incident never happens again. The response you provided is inadequate.

I am sure that there are numerous closeted gay and lesbian military personnel using your service, and your lack of a strong and coherent response should trouble and alarm all of them.

I look forward to a more responsive and responsible statement than the one provided above

John N. Affuso, Esq.
Former 1LT
Signal Corps
United States Army Reserve

 


 

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