Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Amazon wins customer protection case.

Declan McCullagh of CNET reports that Amazon has won it's case against the state of North Carolina. Amazon doesn't have a physical presence in N.C., so the state can't collect sales tax on items sold on Amazon. But North Carolina has a usage tax that is supposed to be paid by citizens of the state. Because the tax wasn't being collected N.C. wants Amazon to give up the names and items purchased by citizens of N.C. so they can be charged for the tax.

Amazon had offered anonymized data, but the state wouldn't accept it. The judge ruled that the N.C. was asking for more information than it had a right to. In addition, the data ran afoul of the First Amendment by giving the state access to information on what people were reading, watching, and listening to.

The decision was in line with previous court decisions on states asking etailers for customer information. States have no need to know exactly what we purchase unless they have reason to believe we are breaking the law. Even then they should need a court order or search warrant.