Tuesday, November 27, 2007

US withdraws subpoena seeking identity of 24,000 Amazon customers

MADISON, Wisconsin (AP) - U.S. prosecutors have withdrawn a subpoena seeking the identities of thousands of people who bought used books through online retailer Amazon.com Inc., newly unsealed court records show. The withdrawal came after a judge ruled the customers have a right to keep their reading habits from the government.

"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.

Amazon said in court documents it hopes Crocker's decision will make it more difficult for prosecutors to obtain records involving book purchases.

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 about freedom of speech were justified and outweighed the subpoena's law enforcement purpose.

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