Allege Online Retailer Violates Children's Privacy Rights

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WASHINGTON ( -- Consumer groups today accused of violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act and petitioned the Federal Trade Commission to take action against the online retailer.

At a press conference today, the groups claimed that while sections of Amazon's Web site are "child directed," including a toy store in which people can reviews products, the company has failed to take steps required by law to ensure that identifying information from children under 13 isn't being posted.

Barred by law
The groups, which included the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Commercial Alert and the Center for Media Education, cited toy reviews on the Web site from several users younger than 13 who list their age and either home address or e-mail address, though listing of such information is barred by the law.

The groups said Amazon is hiding behind a "veil of ignorance" -- that because its children's products are intended for purchase by adults, the company doesn't have to take extensive action to screen out children's information.

Amazon did not immediately return calls for comment.

Privacy policies
One group involved in the Amazon complaint,, also filed a separate complaint with the FTC accusing eBay of engaging in "deception" with regards to an apparent conflict between the short and long versions of its privacy policy posted on eBay's Web site.

The short version says private information provided will be shared with third parties "only when absolutely necessary" while the longer version says it can be shared "as we in our sole discretion believe necessary or appropriate."

An official with eBay denied the charge, saying the online auction site produced the shorter version in response to requests from consumer groups and federal agencies that Web marketers provide easy to understand language in their privacy statements. He said consumers should always check the longer policy to avoid any misunderstanding.

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