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Amazon Wins Privacy Victory

Amazon.com won a major victory today when the Federal Trade Commission rejected a petition from privacy advocates claiming that Amazon violated the law by making changes in its privacy policy last year.

In a letter to Junkbusters.com President Jason Catlett and Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, FTC Consumer Protection Director Jodie Bernstein wrote that its staff believes that Amazon's revised privacy policy "does not materially conflict with representations Amazon made in its previous privacy policy and that it likely has not violated Section 5 of the FTC Act."

Amazon's privacy policy is available here. The privacy policy was changed in August of last year. A copy of today's FTC letter is available here.

EPIC and Junkbusters had asked the FTC to determine whether Amazon deceived customers in the United States by changing its privacy policy last year to permit disclosure of personal customer information.

EPIC and Junkbusters alleged 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.

The groups asked the FTC (1) to prohibit Amazon from disclosing information about its customers without their prior affirmative consent, (2) to require Amazon to offer its customers the option to delete all information about their identity and purchases, and (3) to require Amazon to tell each customer on request exactly what information it has disclosed or exchanged about the customer with other companies and to provide complete access to the customer profile.

EPIC and Junkbusters alleged 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.

Rotenburg said EPIC is reviewing its options, and that a federal lawsuit or presentation to a federal oversight commission is possible.

Rotenberg said in a conference call on the matter that EPIC is "not satisified with the outcome, and ... our view is that this is not a good signal to send to the online indistry."