With State budgets coming up short, legislators in many states are looking for more tax revenue. North Carolina is no exception. After passing a law that forced Amazon to either end its affiliate program or pay state taxes, Amazon cut off any of its ties to the state. This ingenious act of forethought cut off a revenue stream for many people – people who pay taxes, live, and vote in the state. Not to fear, North Carolina has another plan to squeeze more money out of its constituents.
This plan involves demanding that Amazon provide the name and address of all customers residing in North Carolina along with the items that they purchased. What is the point of all of this? To collect sales tax money from Amazon customers who paid no state sales tax when they purchased the goods from Amazon. What could possibly go wrong? Well, for starters, it very likely violates the law. The article points to two court cases that have held that a person’s book purchases are both private and protected by the First Amendment. It also points to the Video Privacy Protection Act which makes disclosing people’s video purchases illegal.
Amazon is holding firm that it does not have to release this data. While Amazon does sell more than just books and movies, I hope that this case makes it far enough to declare that everybody’s purchases, regardless of the type of product, are to remain private information. In any event, this is overshadowed by a bigger issue – why are the constituents of North Carolina allowing their elected officials to violate their privacy? Worst of all, this type of behavior isn’t just isolated to North Carolina. People from all over the United States allow their elected officials to do things that negatively affect them. North Carolina has already cost its citizens money by forcing Amazon to discontinue the affiliate program in the state. Now it wants Amazon to reveal purchase information for all of North Carolina. No one would ever expect this type of disclosure from a brick and mortar store. In fact, those types of stores don’t even collect or store that kind of information. Amazon shouldn’t be forced to violate its customer’s privacy just so tax collectors can then use that information to harass its customers. Then again, they are tax collectors. Violating privacy and shaking people people down for money seems to be their M.O.