AOL amends policy to allow user tracking

Recent changes to America Online's (AOL) privacy policy allow the Internet service provider the right to use Internet tracking tools such as cookies and Web beacons, a company spokesman confirmed Tuesday.

As part of AOL's switch from proprietary software to an HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) climate, the company will be using the Web-based tracking technologies to allow it to personalize some services and anonymously monitor the effectiveness of online ads, said AOL Spokesman Andrew Weinstein.

Cookies are little pieces of information that a Web site puts on a user's hard drive so that it can remember something about the user at a later time. Typically, a cookie records users' preferences when visiting a particular site. Web beacons are used to collect anonymous advertising statistics such as the number of unique page views or ad responses.

"We plan to use these standard practices the same way any other Internet company would," Weinstein said.

AOL outlined the new policy to users in late August, emphasizing that "we do not use any information about where you personally go on AOL or the Web, and we do not give it out to others."

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