Is Amazon in the Wrong Business?
If you were reading the tech press over the holiday weekend - and we sincerely hope you weren't - you would have seen two stories linking Amazon.com and the federal government.
In one, a study attempted to total up sales from U.S. government Web sites and concluded that last year the government outsold Amazon.com. In the other, the Federal Trade Commission gave Amazon a pass on a privacy question.
First to online sales. Of the $3.6 billion dot-gov total, $3.3 billion fell into the Treasury Department's column for savings bonds, notes and T-bills. (Amazon.com racked up $2.8 billion in sales last year.) The remaining $300 million accruing to the government was spread among some 165 other sites, according to a four-month study funded by the Pew Internet and American Life Project and carried out by Federal Computer Week reporters.
USA Today ran an FCW-authored story on the study. This comprehensive summary delved into questions of the propriety of government sites operating in competition with commercial enterprises - a wrinkle not mentioned in the wire-service coverage of the study. The AP's D. Ian Hopper helpfully listed and linked 23 government sales sites in a handy sidebar. (USA Today's FCW piece mentioned only eight such sites.)
The privacy advocates had chided Amazon because the retailer stopped promising never to sell its customers' personal data. The FTC decided not to get involved, because Amazon has not, as yet, actually sold any such data. Most outlets ended their stories with EPIC's all-but-promise to pursue further action in federal court or before Congress.
In E-Commerce We Trust
The Industry Standard
Dot-Gov Goes Retail
U.S. Government Outsells Amazon
Government Online Sales Outpace Retailers' (AP)
San Jose Mercury News
FTC Blesses Amazon's Privacy Sleight-of-Hand
Amazon Wins Privacy Victory
Amazon in the Clear on Privacy, FTC Says (Reuters)