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Tuesday, April 22, 2003


Groups Groups Urge Federal Trade Commission to Investigate Internet Retailer

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and 11 consumer protection groups today urged the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Amazon.com for violations of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The coalition of groups joining the complaint includes Commercial Alert, the Center for Media Education, and the Consumer Federation of America.

The COPPA is a 1998 law that seeks to protect individuals under the age of 13 from online privacy violations. Commercial web sites that are directed towards children, or those that have actual knowledge that they collect children's personal information must comply with the COPPA. Such sites must provide a parental privacy notice, a mechanism to obtain verifiable parental consent for the collection of children's information, a system for parental review and deletion of children's information, and security and confidentiality requirements.

The groups alleged in the complaint that Amazon.com is operating a commercial web site directed at children, collecting children's personal data, and disclosing it. The Amazon.com "Toy Store" page employs child models, cartoon characters, and child-like fonts to direct children to purchase toys on the site. Individuals who visit "Toysrus.com" or "Imaginarium.com" are directed to the Amazon.com "Toy Store" page.

Furthermore, numerous apparent children have registered on the Amazon.com web site. The EPIC complaint notes that children as young as 7 have registered, and in some cases, have publicly listed their full names, postal addresses, and e-mail addresses.

"Amazon.com clearly markets its products to children, but has not complied with the privacy responsibilities that accompany such activities," said Chris Hoofnagle, deputy counsel to EPIC, he continued, "Congress enacted the COPPA to address web sites that collected children's personal information, but fail to protect children from the risks involved in disclosing their data."

The complaint urges the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Amazon.com, and to order the company to purge Children's information from the site.

The complaint is available online at www.epic.org.

EPIC maintains a web page on the COPPA at http://www.epic.org/privacy/kids/.

EPIC is a public-interest center that was established to focus public attention on emerging civil liberties issues and to protect privacy, the First Amendment, and other constitutional values.

Chris Jay Hoofnagle
EPIC Deputy Counsel
202-483-1140 x108