Civil liberties group cancels Amazon partnership

Not happy with its new privacy policy. Nor are we come to that

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has sent a letter to its subscribers and produced a press release detailing its decision to break all ties with online bookseller Amazon over its new privacy policy.

EPIC is based in Washington DC and was established "to focus public attention on emerging civil liberties issues and to protect privacy, the First Amendment, and constitutional values". It was one of the first Amazon "affiliates" and offered its back catalogue of books on privacy, free speech, cryptography and open government for sale.

In the letter, EPIC's executive director Marc Rotenberg explains that he was at first very happy with Amazon's privacy policy and aside from a few complaints about spam and the aggressive chasing on Amazon's "one-click" patent, was content with the relationship.

However, the letter goes on to say: "Recently Amazon announced that it could no longer guarantee that it would not disclose customer information to third parties. Because of this decision, and in the absence of legal or technical means to assure privacy for Amazon customers, we have decided that we can no longer continue our relationship with Amazon.

"Over the next several weeks we will take steps to sever our ties with Amazon. This will mean finding a new way to distribute our publications and other publications on privacy, free speech, and related topics. In the interim, you can continue to order all of EPIC's publications directly from us."

Amazon has annoyed a large number of people recently both with its new privacy policy and the recent cock-up over its new pricing system. Amazon started out as a consumer champion, offering books and then CDs, DVDs etc etc at cheaper than normal prices. It worked very hard on its delivery process and customer services and quickly became a byword for the future success of the Internet as a business medium.

However, it seems possible that Amazon now thinks itself so big that it can afford to dictate terms. The decision to weaken its privacy policy is also a nasty precedent - people trusted it not to sell on personal details but it is clear that Amazon has been compiling the information. It obviously feels that now its database is of a sufficient standard that it can be sold on. This is a very unpleasant abuse of consumer trust. How far the backlash will go will be a very good indicator of how and by how much the Internet has changed business philosophy. ®

Related Link

EPIC's letter to subscribers

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