Privacy Groups Push States for More From Amazon

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Though Amazon.com recently agreed to make changes to its privacy policy in response to scrutiny from the attorneys general of at least 12 states, privacy watchdogs are not satisfied and said so yesterday in a letter to the AG's offices.


At the end of September, the state attorneys general seemed content with the clarifications Amazon said it would make to its privacy policy "in the next few weeks." Changes basically were expected to be elaborations on existing Amazon practices regarding the possible sale and sharing of customer data.


In a change made Aug. 31, 2000, Amazon notified customers that it would share data with business partners and that its customer database could be sold as an asset. It also removed the ability of customers to opt out of third-party data sharing. Amazon, Seattle, previously had a policy of not sharing any personal data of its customers.


The letter from the privacy groups Electronic Privacy Information Center and Junkbusters urged the attorneys general to push Amazon to do much more than clarify its privacy policy. The organizations recommended that they ask Amazon to: obtain consent before transferring personal information of customers who used Amazon before its policy change; let customers delete records of specific purchases; give customers access to purchase records; and submit to an independent audit of its privacy practices.


The letter was addressed to Glenn Kaplan and Pamela Kogut, assistant attorneys general in Massachusetts, but also went to the attorneys general of Maryland, Arizona, Michigan, Connecticut, Vermont, Maine, Oregon, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Florida, Wyoming and the District of Columbia.


Late yesterday, Kaplan and Kogut responded in a letter to the privacy groups, which was posted on the EPIC Web site at www.epic.org. In part, the response said, "We note that we have provided a copy of your letter to Amazon, and are interested in receiving Amazon's reply to the concerns you raise."


However, it went on to say that though some of the changes proposed by the groups might be nice, they were not necessary. It also said that Amazon had been cooperative and receptive to the AG's suggestions.


It is unclear whether the other state AGs will follow suit and remain satisfied with the changes Amazon pledged to make.


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