Saturday, April 19th 2014
 

Who Else Knows What You’re Buying Online? The Importance Of Online Shopping Privacy

How important is your online privacy to you? Do you think about it often? Posting personal information intended for others to see on sites like Facebook may be one thing, but what about your online purchases?  You may not think about it, but what you buy can reveal a lot about you.

In December of last year the North Carolina Department of Revenue (NCDOR) requested and received the records of Amazon.com customer purchases within their state. The popular online shopping website provided them with a list of  purchases North Carolina residents made within a seventh month time frame. In March 2010 NCDOR also wanted to know who bought what, ordering Amazon.com to give even more personal information – this time linking specific purchases with individuals. Amazon sued NCDOR in April after refusing their demands. The lawsuit is pending and NCDOR has yet to withdraw its requests.

So why does the government need to know what you’re buying on Amazon.com? The requests are not only unreasonable but also unconstitutional to First Amendment rights. Individuals should have the choice to purchase and read materials as they wish without interfering with their privacy. And you must remember, Amazon.com does not only sell books. With magazines, music, DVDs and electronics a lot can be told about a person from their online shopping receipts.

The ACLU has intervened in the lawsuit to help protect online users’ personal information under their First Amendment Rights. The ACLU also says this order from the NCDOR violates rights to free speech as well as anonymity and privacy in regards to purchases. Representing six North Carolina residents and an elected public official, the ACLU hopes to build a case off these sources. The ACLU website lists examples of the anonymous individual’s purchases and why revealing such information would violate their privacy.

·  Jane Doe 1, who purchased books on self-help and how to get a divorce and a restraining order after her former spouse developed substance abuse problems and threatened to kill her;

·  Jane Doe 2, the general counsel of a global corporation, who has purchased books and movies with overt political leanings as well as books that may reveal her religious beliefs;

Other sources claim that purchases involving cancer, mental health and political beliefs would violate their privacy. The issues listed above are all very personal – so why the need to share?

Although the First Amendment should protect citizens from wide sweeps of information like the one in North Carolina, there are a few tips on how to protect your privacy when shopping online. Because whether you’re browsing Amazon.com looking to buy a new DVD or a much more personal item, wouldn’t you like to keep it private either way?

Posted by Rachel at July 8, 2010 at 10:15am.

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