EPIC logo 


September 13, 2000
Washington, DC

Dear EPIC subscriber:

I am writing to you regarding EPIC's relationship with Amazon.com, the Internet-based bookseller.

In 1996 the Electronic Privacy Information Center became one of the first "Amazon Affiliates." We believed at the time that Amazon was offering a valuable new service to Internet users. We assembled a list of important books on privacy, free speech, cryptography, and open government and made these titles available through our web site in association with Amazon.

In 1998 we signed up for "Amazon Advantage." This program allowed us to distribute the various reports that EPIC publishes, including our "Privacy Law Sourcebook," our annual reports on "Privacy and Human Rights" and "Cryptography and Liberty," as well as "Filters and Freedom."

We were generally pleased with the Amazon privacy policy. We understood that Amazon did not disclose personally identifiable information to Amazon affiliates. Amazon also made available to its customers an extensive record of customer information, the type of profiling data that many companies do not disclose. And Amazon offered assurances that it would not disclose customer information to third parties.

We believed at the time that this business model, together with strong legal and technical measures, could provide a new and more robust form of commerce that would benefit consumers and protect online privacy.

Over the years we received several complaints about Amazon. Some people objected to the spam that Amazon sent, others to the Purchase Circle program, and still others to the impact on independent booksellers. The largest number of complaints centered on the one-click patent application that Amazon aggressively pursued.

We appreciated the comments and respected the concerns. We said that we would always make our publications directly available so that no one would be required to buy an EPIC publication from Amazon. We also continued to press publicly for Amazon to be more responsive to the privacy concerns of Internet users.

Recently Amazon announced that it could no longer guarantee that it would not disclose customer information to third parties.

Because of this decision, and in the absence of legal or technical means to assure privacy for Amazon customers, we have decided that we can no longer continue our relationship with Amazon. Over the next several weeks we will take steps to sever our ties with Amazon. This will mean finding a new way to distribute our publications and other publications on privacy, free speech, and related topics.

In the interim, you can continue to order all of EPIC's publications directly from us. The web address for the EPIC Bookstore is http://www.epic.org/bookstore. We will notify you when we resume the sale of other publications that we think will be of interest to our subscribers.

We appreciate your comments on this matter. We apologize for any disruption in service that might result from this change. We are eager to make our publications and the publications of others available to you, but the protection of privacy must come first.

Marc Rotenberg
Executive Director
Electronic Privacy Information Center