Online retailer charged with privacy violations

Online retailer charged with privacy violations

The state attorney general in Missouri this week filed a lawsuit against charging that the US-based online health-products retailer violated the privacy policy posted on its Web site by releasing customer data to a third-party company.

In addition to violating its privacy policy, Missouri attorney general, Jay Nixon charged, is deceiving users of the Web site by not informing them that it contains so-called "Web bugs" used to track the activities of visitors.

A Web site "should not be selling consumers' personal information to other businesses when the site's privacy policy clearly states that information won't be shared [with] others," Nixon said in a statement.

According to Nixon, the suit was filed after an investigator in his office tried unsuccessfully to order contact lenses through the Web site using an assumed name. The investigator was then solicited to purchase lenses by a third party even though he hadn't contacted that company under the assumed name. That amounts to a violation of's privacy policy, Nixon alleged.

However, while's privacy policy promises that it won't "give, sell or rent" the personal information of online shoppers to other entities "for purposes other than fulfilling" orders, the policy does go on to specify that a third-party company is used to fill and ship contact lens purchases.

The suit against could be the catalyst for more such action and signals privacy watchdogs and government regulators are increasingly becoming aware of civil liberty issues around the potentially invasive functionality of Websites.

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