Wednesday, December 05, 2007

US judge denies feds' request for Amazon customer list

A US federal judge has denied a request by the Federal Government for a subpoen of a list of customers, citing the chilling effect that such a subpoena may have:

The Associated Press: Feds Cancel Amazon Customer ID Request


"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.

Crocker — who unsealed documents detailing the showdown against prosecutors' wishes — said he believed prosecutors were seeking the information for a legitimate purpose. But he said First Amendment concerns were justified and outweighed the subpoena's law enforcement purpose.

"The subpoena is troubling because it permits the government to peek into the reading habits of specific individuals without their knowledge or permission," Crocker wrote. "It is an unsettling and un-American scenario to envision federal agents nosing through the reading lists of law-abiding citizens while hunting for evidence against somebody else."

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