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
The State of Cloud Computing - Fall 2020
The State of Cloud Computing - Fall 2020
Download this report to compare how cloud usage and spending patterns have changed in 2020, and how respondents think they'll evolve over the next two years.
11 Ways DevOps Is Evolving
Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer,  2/18/2021
Graph-Based AI Enters the Enterprise Mainstream
James Kobielus, Tech Analyst, Consultant and Author,  2/16/2021
What Comes Next for AWS with Jassy to Become Amazon CEO
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  2/4/2021
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you.
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