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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 Motoman on 2/10/2011 10:29:25 AM , Rating: 3
Just as one example...

When Jesse Ventura was voted in as governor of MN, one of the things he promised to do was to refund to the taxpayers the enormous tax surplus the state had collected. Yes...that's right...the state had collected more in taxes than it needed.

Jesse said he'd give it back. And he did - I, along with everyone else in the state, got a check in the mail refunding some of the tax I had paid.

As an interesting side note, when Jesse was having his press conference announcing how the refund was going to happen, a member of the press asked why the state didn't just use that money to build a new stadium for the Vikings and/or the Twins (don't remember which...was a long time ago). Jesse thought about this for only a couple seconds, and then said "tell you what...I'm going to ask Norwest bank to set up an account for that purpose, and when you get your tax refund check, if you'd rather it go to a new sports stadium then you send it in to the bank."

Didn't hear much about it after that, but a couple months later I did catch a quick update on the local news. They mentioned in passing that "oh, and that account Jesse set up for people to donate their tax refunds to for a new sports arena? Yeah...there's like $1,200 in there." Then a couple smirks, and cut to commercial.

RE: Hypocrisy
By fic2 on 2/10/2011 11:59:29 AM , Rating: 2
I love it. That is the way ALL sports stadium funding should be setup. After all the taxpayers didn't build me a nice office to work in.

RE: Hypocrisy
By sviola on 2/10/2011 12:42:33 PM , Rating: 2
Well, then I have to applaud him. Where I live, that would never happen, the politicians would find a way to spend it (and probably come up with some new taxes).

"The Space Elevator will be built about 50 years after everyone stops laughing" -- Sir Arthur C. Clarke
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