Amazon Sues North Carolina Over Customer Privacy

BlogHer Original Post

Carolinians: That super-embarrassing book you were hoping no one would find out you own? You may not get your wish.

In an ongoing struggle with the state of North Carolina that stretches back to the state's decision to collect taxes from online stores last June, Amazon has brought a lawsuit against the state's Department of Revenue. Amazon claims that the state is violating its residents' privacy by demanding that the online retailer release personal information, including names and addresses, in reference to purchases dating back to 2003.

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Amazon isn't arguing that it should get out of paying those taxes, and the company has provided the state revenue organization with necessary information in the tax audit -- but that information has stopped short of indicating which citizen made which purchase. Amazon's point is that they take their customer's privacy seriously, and that customers may not want their state government to have a list of their purchases.

Especially the sensitive purchases -- while the state may not care who bought Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang, it may want to know who has purchased the Peaceful Pill Handbook. And while no one may care what John Smith in Raleigh purchased, lots of people would probably love to know what some of its more famous citizens bought.

The state of North Carolina fired back with its own statement, insisting that its request to know which resident purchased which item does not violate First Amendment rights.

Even if you don't live in North Carolina, you should be paying attention to this lawsuit, because the implications from it could be used by other states and affect who knows what you buy.

Which side has it right?

Team Amazon: Protector of online privacy? Or huge company trying to get out of paying some taxes by not providing all the information?

Team North Carolina: Protector of North Carolinians' interests and diligently seeking accurate tax information? Or punishing the online giant while snooping at its resident's purchases?

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her book is Navigating the Land of If.

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