Privacy group Junkbusters yesterday asked the Federal Trade Commission to audit Amazon's privacy practices after the agency declined to act on a finding that the online retailer probably made deceptive statements.
However, the agency decided not to take legal action against Amazon and its subsidiary.
The allegations stemmed from Alexa's zBubbles Web navigation service, which recorded Web addresses that users visited. Richard Smith, chief technology officer at the Privacy Foundation, complained to Amazon in 1999 that URLs sometimes contain user-identifiable information, such as e-mail addresses, and that the collection of such information should be prevented.
In early May, Amazon settled a class-action lawsuit stemming from the situation for less than $1.9 million — up to $40 for each member of the lawsuit — and agreed to delete some user-identifiable information.
In its letter, the FTC stated that the lawsuit had been settled and that zBubbles was no longer in service. The FTC also stated that Amazon and Alexa later adjusted their privacy policies to accurately reflect the information that was being collected.
Catlett also called for Amazon to make personal information available to customers and to allow deletions upon request.
“I think it's necessary to do this,” Catlett said. “We can't take Amazon's word.”
An Amazon spokesman referred questions to Alexa founder/CEO Brewster Kahle. Kahle said he was unaware of Catlett's proposal and that he considered the matter closed.
Kahle said he was happy with the FTC findings and that his company had never used any user-identifying information collected. He said there is no existing standard to separate user-identifying information out of a URL.
“If there were, we'd love it,” Kahle said. “We don't use [the data] and don't want it.”