Amazon Loses 2 Partners Over Privacy Policy

Two privacy advocacy organizations, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) in Washington and Junkbusters Corp. in Green Brook, N.J., have severed all ties to Inc. over recent changes made to the online retailer's privacy policy.

On Sept. 1, Seattle-based Amazon announced that it would no longer guarantee that it wouldn't share customer information with third parties.

Last week, the privacy groups told Amazon that they could no longer participate in Amazon's affiliate program.

Amazon affiliates put a link on their Web sites directing customers to Amazon's Web site. They receive a referral fee each time they direct business to the online retailer.

A spokeswoman for EPIC said the organization would continue to sell its privacy-related books and other materials through its own Web site and look for other ways to market the information.

Amazon spokesman Bill Curry said he respects the groups' decisions, adding that EPIC and Junkbusters were just two of Amazon's 500,000 affiliates.

Curry defended Amazon's new privacy policy, saying the retailer had tightened up the terms of its previous policy.

Barrett Ladd, an analyst at Gomez Advisors Inc. in Lincoln, Mass., said that although consumer privacy is an important issue in the online retail world, Amazon is in a difficult position because of its extensive "commerce network."

"Amazon has so many [partners] - other online companies that they invest in like and - that they almost have to have that [new] policy because they don't want to get hurt if those affiliates use their customer data," he said.

Jonathan Gaw, an analyst at International Data Corp., said the privacy groups felt had too much latitude in what it could do with its customer data.

Copyright © 2000 IDG Communications, Inc.

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