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Amazon and ACLU Resist Release of Customer Information

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North Carolina State Capital by triplezero on Flickr

North Carolina State Capital by triplezero on Flickr

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has entered the fray between the state of North Carolina and Amazon.com over the release of customer information. North Carolina wants sales tax money from purchases made through Amazon.com by state residents, but in order to collect, they’d need names, addresses, and a description of the items sold.

Amazon.com maintains that the release of such information could stifle online purchasing as buyers might become more wary of making online transactions, particularly if they involve “controversial books, music and movies, violating their constitutional rights to free speech.”

Indeed, the ACLU agrees and maintains that North Carolina’s request is unconstitutional; earlier this week, the organization asked a district judge in Seattle to declare it as such. The ACLU represents seven Amazon customers, including a governmental official from Asheville who is also an atheist.

“The intervenors have bought books about divorce, atheism, personality disorders, cancer and numerous politically charged issues,” said Aden Fine, a lawyer for the ACLU. “It’s no surprise the intervenors want to keep that information private and free from government scrutiny.”

North Carolina counters that they’re not interested in the subject matter of the purchases — just a general idea. Amazon, on the other hand, says there is no way for them to provide general information on purchases in states in which they don’t have warehouses (North Carolina being one of them).

What do you think? Should Amazon have to provide this information to the state of North Carolina for sales tax collection? Do you think the release of such information would be a violation of the 1st amendment rights of Amazon purchasers? Even if you think it would be a violation, should North Carolina’s interest in collecting sales tax override that?

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October 21st, 2010 at 1:14 pm