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Published in TechCentralStation.com <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
September 25, 2000
But many advocating federal regulations for online information collection have criticized Amazon.com for the terms of the new policy. To do so is to miss the larger point; the company is going to great lengths to keep customers informed about how their personal information is being managed so that they can make informed decisions about where to shop and with whom to share this data. Those concerned with online privacy should have applauded this effort.
But in light of the criticism Amazon has received for the move, it seems that those advocating government intervention of information collection on the Internet are more interested in setting the terms of the exchange, than they are in ensuring that consumers are able to decide for themselves with which privacy practices they are comfortable.
Critics have labeled this as a step backward for the privacy of consumers, but denouncing the specifics of the policy implies that the privacy preferences of critics should be everyone’s privacy preferences. It is unlikely that one standard for privacy could appeal to everyone. For example, some consumers appreciate being greeted by name and being shown books or videos on the subjects they’ve shown interest in before while others deem the practice “creepy.”
It’s true that some will prefer to reveal nothing about themselves while online. But it’s also true that in light of Amazon.com’s email effort, these individuals are now in a better position to make a choice that is in accordance with their privacy preferences the next time they want to buy a book. And if enough people object to the policy changes, it’s likely that Amazon.com will want to reconsider its practices. But if not, anonymity aficionados will simply shop elsewhere and Amazon.com will cater only to those who find the new policy agreeable. The point is that consumers should be able to decide for themselves what they are and are not comfortable with because it will surely vary from one online shopper to the next.