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North Carolina Department of Revenue has agreed to discontinue requesting the personal information of its residents that shop through Amazon

A privacy lawsuit between the North Carolina Department of Revenue and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was settled on Wednesday, and the state agreed to stop requesting its residents' personal information through 

Since 2003, the state has asked Amazon for detailed records of what North Carolina customers were purchasing on the site in order to collect sales use taxes, which amounted to about $50 million. Amazon gave this information to the state without including the customers' personal information such as their name and address, but the North Carolina Department of Revenue started to demand this information as well, which led to the legal battle. 

The American Civil Liberties Union joined Amazon in their fight to protect customer information when the online retailer refused to violate the privacy of its customers. 

"The N.C. Department of Revenue does not need access to private customer records that reveal which specific customers in North Carolina have ordered which specific books, music or movies in order to complete its audit of Amazon and collect any taxes owed," said Jennifer Rudinger, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina. "We are pleased that the public's First Amendment rights have been upheld by this settlement, which prohibits the department from seeking this kind of information from Amazon or other Internet retailers in the future."

A representative for the North Carolina Department of Revenue argued that the state was never really interested in its citizens' buying patterns.  

"The case between the North Carolina Department of Revenue and Amazon has long been twisted into something it is not," said Beth Stevenson, spokeswoman for the North Carolina Department of Revenue. "Bottom line, this is about fairly collecting the tax that is due to the state of North Carolina and nothing more. The Department has always maintained that we do not need - or want - titles or similar details about products purchased by Amazon customers. The department voluntarily destroyed the detailed information that Amazon unnecessarily provided and offered them the opportunity to comply with the state tax laws moving forward.

"The lawsuit on this particular issue could have been avoided altogether if not for the aggressive stance Amazon took to avoid compliance with North Carolina's tax laws. There would have never been an issue of customer privacy if Amazon would simply collect the North Carolina sales tax that others already do."

U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman ruled last October that the North Carolina Department of Revenue had overstepped its boundaries with its request for personal information, and noted that there is "no legitimate need" for them to have such information. 

"The fear of government tracking and censoring one's reading, listening and viewing choices chills the exercise of First Amendment rights," said Pechman. 

According to Rudinger, Amazon was not part of the settlement, and it was unclear whether Amazon's lawsuit regarding the state's audit was pending on appeal.

In addition to Amazon, the North Carolina Department of Revenue is also facing lawsuits from many online travel companies such as, Travelscape,, Trip Network Inc. and Orbitz due to the state and counties' tendencies to "arbitrarily change the contracts" they have with hotels in North Carolina. 

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RE: Hypocrisy
By frobizzle on 2/10/2011 8:46:50 AM , Rating: 1
Back in the 1700's the colonies fought against England for taxation without representation. Our current government has learned nothing and obviously we don't learn from history.

You really don't have a clue, do you? Your argument is completely off-topic and falls into the comparing apples and oranges category.

A better example of taxation without representation is all the ridiculous taxes and fees you are assessed when you rent a car or stay at a hotel on a trip. The state and local governments assess these oftentimes not insignificant fees on you and unless you are resident of that state or municipality, you have zero say about it. Just suck up and deal with it.

Do you get it now?

RE: Hypocrisy
By FITCamaro on 2/10/2011 10:29:35 AM , Rating: 2
Last I checked you vote for the local and state officials who decide these taxes and fees. So your argument is just as bad as his.

An actual example of taxation without representation in the US is the many costs of doing business associated with complying with regulations and federal mandates by unelected bureaucrats in the EPA, HHS, etc. While the heads of these government departments are appointed by elected officials, they are in reality creating laws that were not voted on by Congress. A clear violation of the constitution.

Am I saying they should not exist at all? Not necessarily (although they should actually exist at the state level). But their size and scope should be drastically reduced and anything they decide upon should have to be voted on by Congress in order to be enforced.

If you can be penalized with a fine or jail time, it is a law.

RE: Hypocrisy
By SilthDraeth on 2/10/2011 11:23:38 AM , Rating: 2
He was actually talking about traveling to another state via airplane perhaps, then having to rent a car, and having to pay taxes from another area that he doesn't represent.

Not a very good example, but he is right about not havin ga say in those taxes.

"Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be." -- Steve Ballmer
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