U.S. Withdraws Subpoena Seeking Amazon Customers

Federal prosecutors have withdrawn a subpoena seeking the identities of thousands of people who bought used books through online retailer Amazon.com Inc., newly unsealed court records show. The withdrawal came after a judge ruled the customers have a First Amendment right to keep their reading habits from the government. "The (subpoena's) chilling effect on expressive e-commerce would frost keyboards across America," U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Crocker wrote in a June ruling. "Well-founded or not, rumors of an Orwellian federal criminal investigation into the reading habits of Amazon's customers could frighten countless potential customers into canceling planned online book purchases," the judge wrote in a ruling he unsealed last week.

Seattle-based Amazon said in court documents it hopes Crocker's decision will make it more difficult for prosecutors to obtain records involving book purchases. Assistant U.S. Attorney John Vaudreuil said Tuesday he doubted the ruling would hamper legitimate investigations.

View: Full Story on SiliconValley.com

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Verizon Wireless to Open Network

Next Story

Microsoft Loses Patent Appeal

6 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

The judge threw out these kind of unconstitutional police state fishing expeditions as he should have.

There are legitimate reasons for reading even the most controversial of documents and unless there is proof of CRIMINAL intent, the government is supposed to F*** OFF, by the law of the land.

For example, I'm a screenwriter and one of the few in Hollyweird who actually understands science, technology, etc. If the government is monitoring reader/browser habits, I'm going to come up red-flagged as I am often researching everything from advances in nanotechnology to the current and future states of modern nuclear weapons.

BUT...

I am NOT a security risk. I'm not a threat to this nation. Nor will I ever be either. :)

Knowing HOW to build a nuke is not the same as procuring weapons grade fissionable material. The government should know the difference and act accordingly.

Freedom of Information begins with the word FREEDOM.

/rant

This is one of those things where I'm really not sure what to think... Generally I think people believe Hollywood conspiracy movies a bit too much. The government isn't a huge, scary, out-to-get everyone, entity portrayed in movies like "V for Vendetta."

I re-read the whole article and on reflection, the situation wasn't bad... There is no "chilling effect on reading". It looks like the feds were trying to bust someone for tax evasion and were just trying to total up how much damages they needed to seek. They didn't even want specifics of the transactions; they didn't need to know titles, customers, etc. Just dates and dollar amounts.

Heck, I'm all for going after tax evaders... The more they catch, the less likely mine will be raised. I frankly resent the judge for politicizing something that didn't need to be. I don't know how you go from abstract transaction data to violating the first amendment. I just don't see it...

Schmoe said,
They didn't even want specifics of the transactions; they didn't need to know titles, customers, etc. Just dates and dollar amounts.

"The company turned over many records but refused to identify the book buyers, citing their First Amendment right to keep their reading choices private. Prosecutors later narrowed the subpoena, asking the company to identify a sample of 120 customers."

Schmoe said,
They didn't even want specifics of the transactions; they didn't need to know titles, customers, etc. Just dates and dollar amounts.

Quote - The first sentence of the story says:
Federal prosecutors have withdrawn a subpoena seeking the identities of thousands of people who bought used books through online retailer Amazon.com Inc.