Is FTC Too Forgiving Of Amazon's Privacy Violations? - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


Is FTC Too Forgiving Of Amazon's Privacy Violations?

The commission finds that Amazon and one of its subsidiaries was deceptive, but chooses not to recommend enforcement action

A leading privacy advocate says the Federal Trade Commission's decision not to take action against for engaging in deceptive privacy practices sets a precedent that could ultimately hurt online retailing. In a recently completed investigation of Amazon and its Alexa Internet subsidiary, the FTC found Amazon and Alexa, which sells software designed to improve Web surfing, to be in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act. Even so, it refrained from recommending any enforcement proceedings.

In a letter to Amazon detailing its findings, the FTC says the sites' practice of passing on consumers' personal data from Alexa to Amazon is in conflict with its previously stated policy. The commission says it chose not to take action in part because Alexa had amended its privacy policy. That policy now specifies that Alexa does not "intentionally disclose personally identifying information...even to" and that its processes eliminate "most, but not all" personal data. An FTC spokeswoman declined to elaborate on the letter.

Jason Catlett, president of privacy watchdog Junkbusters, has responded to the FTC's decision with a letter that asks the commission to order Amazon to submit to a privacy audit. Catlett says the FTC has traditionally been lenient on Amazon when it comes to privacy. Last week, the commission also rejected a petition from Catlett and the Electronic Privacy Information Center asking that it investigate alleged deception in Amazon's update of its privacy policy last year.

Catlett says that by not punishing Amazon and Alexa for either transgression, and allowing Alexa's subsequent policy update to affect that decision, the FTC could erode consumer confidence in E-commerce. "It sends a terrible message to companies that they can lie about their information practices, and that, if they're caught, they can change their practices," Catlett says. "Amazon can't be trusted." Amazon and Alexa did not return phone calls requesting comment.

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
State of the Cloud
State of the Cloud
Cloud has drastically changed how IT organizations consume and deploy services in the digital age. This research report will delve into public, private and hybrid cloud adoption trends, with a special focus on infrastructure as a service and its role in the enterprise. Find out the challenges organizations are experiencing, and the technologies and strategies they are using to manage and mitigate those challenges today.
IT Careers: 12 Job Skills in Demand for 2020
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  10/1/2019
Enterprise Guide to Multi-Cloud Adoption
Cathleen Gagne, Managing Editor, InformationWeek,  9/27/2019
5 Ways CIOs Can Better Compete to Recruit Top Tech Talent
Guest Commentary, Guest Commentary,  10/2/2019
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Current Issue
Data Science and AI in the Fast Lane
This IT Trend Report will help you gain insight into how quickly and dramatically data science is influencing how enterprises are managed and where they will derive business success. Read the report today!
White Papers
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Sponsored Video
Flash Poll