Amazon.com ordered to turn over customer’s records; ruling currently on hold

Internet privacy battle plays out in Charleston


In a decision that threatened the privacy of online purchases, a federal magistrate in Charleston ordered the nation’s largest online bookseller on Thursday to turn over its records of a Walterboro real estate broker’s book purchases.
Minutes later, though, in a separate hearing, U.S. District Judge David Norton put a hold on federal Magistrate Robert Carr’s ruling against Amazon.com.

[from Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier, via Privacy Digest]
In a federal case, Calvert Huffines is on trial for receiving child pornography. Amazon.com, which of course doesn’t sell pornography, was subpoenaed by the U.S. government, requesting records relating to Huffines purchases. Information about these purchases “would help the government prove he has a sexual interest in children.”
The article ends by saying:

The government’s attempt to get Amazon’s records is similar to court battles over what books former White House intern Monica Lewinsky ordered and books purchased by suspected drug dealers in Colorado. In 1998, Lewinsky wanted to keep private her book purchases. The federal court in the District of Columbia agreed with her. In April 2002, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that a bookstore did not have to tell a Denver drug task force who purchased two books on how to make drugs.

This also calls to mind the reporters who dug through Robert Bork’s video-rental records during his confirmation hearings and attempts by the government under the Patriot Act to access library records.

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