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Shut Amazon down, say privacy groups

Privacy groups say Amazon should be shut down until it can comply with the law

Online bookseller Amazon.co.uk has admitted it is unable to comply with UK data protection laws, according to civil rights campaign group Privacy International.

Privacy International -- which has brought a joint action with another privacy group Junkbusters against the online giant -- calls for the Internet retailer to be shut down until it can guarantee privacy for customers.

Director of Privacy International Simon Davies says that when challenged Amazon confirmed it is unable to supply customers with their personal data or have that data deleted, as required by the Data Protection Act. "We have secured an admission from Amazon that it cannot comply with United Kingdom data protection laws. In the letter of the law, they must be shut down," says Davies.

A spokesman for Amazon.co.uk says the organisation has done nothing wrong and insists that Davies' 'admission' has not been seen by .co.uk staff. The spokesman added: "Certain limited information is passed to the US [.com] for routine processing and transfer... We have a prominent disclosure on our Web site."

The spokesman explained that any information held by .com on behalf of the UK organisation is done "in accordance with the .co.uk privacy policy and in accordance with UK data protection legislation."

On Monday US privacy groups wrote to the Federal Trade Commission complaining that Amazon's privacy policy deceives consumers and violates laws against unfair business practices.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a research centre in Washington is asking the commission to investigate Amazon's practices and compel the bookseller to withhold information about its customers instead of selling it to third parties.

The group also wants the FTC to require Amazon to offer its customers the option of deleting all information about their identities and purchases and to disclose what is being collected and exactly how the data will be used.

Amazon.co.uk first came under the scrutiny of UK privacy watchdogs in September when it was revealed that it transfers customer information to its parent company in the US, where data protection is less stringent than in the European Union.

The Data Protection Commissioner's Office could not respond to calls at press time.

Read US reaction to Amazon's privacy policies.

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