Privacy groups turn up heat on Amazon

The Electronic Privacy Information Centre (EPIC) and Junkbusters are asking for an investigation of the Amazon's operations, which EPIC and Junkbusters say violate trade practices and data-protection laws.

          The Electronic Privacy Information Centre (EPIC) and Junkbusters have taken a privacy dispute with Amazon.com to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), asking for an investigation of the online retailer's operations, which EPIC and Junkbusters say violate trade practices and data-protection laws.

          In London, Privacy International took a similar step this week, asking the UK data-protection commissioner to halt Amazon's UK affiliate from processing customer data until it complies with UK data protection law.

          In a letter to the FTC, privacy watchdogs EPIC and Junkbusters ask for an investigation into whether Amazon deceived customers in the US by changing its privacy policy to permit disclosure of personal customer information. EPIC and Junkbusters allege that the changes are inconsistent with Amazon's previous statements that it would never disclose customer information to third parties and are therefore deceptive and illegal under the US FTC Act.

          The groups have asked the FTC to prohibit Amazon from disclosing information about its customers without their prior affirmative consent, to require Amazon to offer its customers the option to delete all information about their identity and purchases, to require Amazon to tell customers upon request exactly what information it has disclosed about the customer to other companies and to provide complete access to the customer profile.

          Junkbusters has negotiated in recent months with Amazon, but last week's action follows the refusal of Amazon to meet its demands. Both EPIC and Junkbusters severed their ties with Amazon on September 13 over Amazon's revised privacy policy.

          The Privacy International complaint charges that the company is in wilful violation of several requirements of the data protection law, including the obligation to show its UK customers all information held about them and to delete it on request. Privacy International director Simon Davies previously sent a formal letter to the data protection commissioner objecting to Amazon's transfer of customer data from the UK to the US.

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