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    Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

    Online Commerce, Taxation, the First Amendment and Privacy

    Thursday, May 6th, 2010

    In many online transactions, the buyers aren’t charged state sales tax. In some states, “the burden is on shoppers to track what they buy online, calculate the sales tax owed and then pay it. In reality, few consumers fess up — many do not even know such a requirement exists,” the Washington Post reports. A 2009 report from the University of Tennessee estimated that, “the national state and local sales tax loss on these transactions is expected to grow from $8.6 billion in 2010 […] to $11.4 billion in 2012.”

    Now, the states are looking into how they can gather this tax revenue. “About a dozen, including Maryland and Virginia, this year have considered legislation that would force online retailers to collect the tax, though only a handful of bills have passed. Some states have even taken the unusual step of asking sites such as Amazon to provide lists of what residents have bought and how much they’ve spent, sparking concerns over consumer privacy,” the Post reports.

    There is federal privacy protection for some items sold by Amazon. The Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988 (18 U.S.C. § 2710) prevents the “wrongful disclosure of video tape rental or sale records” of “prerecorded video cassette tapes or similar audio visual materials,” which includes DVDs. Read more »

    CNet: North Carolina defends request for Amazon.com customer records

    Friday, April 23rd, 2010

    CNet reports on a lawsuit by Amazon against North Carolina concerning the privacy of the online retailer’s customer data:

    North Carolina’s tax collectors said Wednesday that they never demanded personal information such as book titles from Amazon.com, which filed a federal lawsuit against the state this week seeking to keep that information confidential.

    “Amazon’s complaint is misleading in alleging the department has required detailed information revealing personal consumer preferences, such as book titles,” North Carolina Secretary of Revenue, Kenneth Lay, said in a statement.

    But CNET has obtained correspondence from the Department of Revenue that calls North Carolina’s claim into question.

    In a letter to Amazon dated December 1, 2009, Romey McCoy, the Department of Revenue’s audit manager, asked for “all information” relating to nearly 50 million purchases that customers in that state had made between 2003 and 2010. McCoy’s letter did not exempt the titles of books or Blu-Ray movies, and did not address the privacy implications of the request.
    Amazon subsequently turned over limited, anonymous information: the amount of the purchase, the seller, and the postal code it was sent to. Read more »

    BusinessWeek: This Is Your Lifelog

    Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

    BusinessWeek has an interesting story about a man who wants a digital log of his entire life.

    For the past 10 years, [Gordon Bell, a 75-year-old legend of computer science], a senior researcher at Microsoft, has been leading the life of a digital pack rat. He has been recording the twists and turns of his existence and storing all this information in vast digital files. Bell takes pictures and records his phone conversations. He maps the path of his footsteps and scans every shred of paper worth saving. All this effort is to build an electronic memory, a digital adjunct to the faulty and often delusional one between our ears. In an engaging new book, Total Recall, which Bell wrote with colleague Jim Gemmell, he argues that growing numbers of us—strange though it may sound—will soon be following his lead. Read more »

    National Public Radio: The Virtue Of Hitting ‘Delete,’ Permanently

    Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

    NPR has an interview with Viktor Mayer-Schonberger, author of “Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age,” and an excerpt from the book. Mayer-Schonberger says that allowing data to be forgotten can provide privacy protection for individuals. NPR writes:

    Evolving digital technology has provided a steady aid for people in their quest to remember virtually everything. Social networking sites remind you of friends’ birthdays, digital calendars send you reminders, and photos posted online preserve memories indefinitely.

    But Viktor Mayer-Schonberger, author of Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age, argues that now is the time to reintroduce our ability to forget. The indelible digital memory can be as unforgiving as it is helpful. Mayer-Shonberger suggests an expiration date for information. Read more »

    Op-Ed at San Jose Mercury News: Proposed Google book settlement leaves libraries’ rights in question

    Monday, October 26th, 2009

    Two librarians wrote an editorial for the San Jose Mercury News discussing privacy and the proposed Google book deal.

    It’s good news that the U.S. District Court decided to hold off on finalizing the settlement among authors, publishers and Google Book Search, the search engine’s gigantic new online library that scanned 7 million books from major American research libraries. While the concerns of protecting intellectual property rights are getting most of the attention, there are still too many questions about public fair use and privacy that remain unresolved. […]

    The problem with the initial proposed settlement is a lack of specificity about how public libraries throughout the United States would be able to provide access to Google Book Search for millions of citizens. […] Read more »

    Sunday Telegraph: Library ‘vigilantes’ track down ‘lost’ books

    Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

    The Sunday Telegraph reports that several councils in Australia want to add radio frequency identification (RFID) technology (which transmits data wirelessly from a chip or tag to a reader) to library books, CDs and DVDs in order to deter thieves.

    The microchips, which are designed to prevent theft and improve stock management, are set to revolutionise library operations.

    Instead of polite letters requesting the return of overdue books, the chip will lead council staff straight to the borrowed items. Read more »