Date:         Wed, 6 Sep 2000 03:56:28 +0000
Sender:       The Internet TourBus - A virtual tour of cyberspace
From:         Bob Rankin 
Subject:      TOURBUS - 05 Sep 2000 - Homework Help / Amazon Privacy
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               TOURBUS Volume 6, Number 15 -- 05 Sep 2000
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         TODAY'S TOURBUS TOPICS: Homework Help / Amazon Privacy
Welcome riders, as the Bus pulls into September.  Today we'll tour a
site that'll help both parents and students with homework, and explore
the controversy around's new privacy policy.  Is it good or
evil?  Read on!
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With kids heading back to school at this time of year, homework comes
back into the spotlight.  So our featured site will be a boon to both
students and parents looking for a little help.
HomeworkSpot, a free "homework portal" created by teachers, librarians
and journalists, is a great new resource that provides easy access to
the best online homework helpers for a variety of subjects including
math, science, social studies, art, music, language, health and more.
The site is nicely organized into categories for elementary, middle &
high school, and offers access to reference tools including subject
experts, dictionaries, encyclopedias, maps, libraries and more. also takes students on virtual field trips to an
elephant sanctuary, Mt. Everest and beyond.  Topical themes cover
dinosaurs, the human body, outer space and more.  Kids will also enjoy
the Study Break sections, which point to games, activities and other
age-appropriate sites they can explore. 
A few days ago I saw a TV news reporter saying that, the
well-known web bookstore, had adopted a sinister new privacy policy.
"Be afraid!" they said, "Amazon will sell your personal data, even
your credit card number, to other companies."
This immediately rang my "Too Stupid To Be True" bell, so I went
online to check things out for myself.  Here's what I learned:
 - Amazon did in fact update their privacy policy.
 - The level of disclosure is very thorough and admirable.
 - You don't need to worry about Amazon selling your personal data.
The very first sentence of the new privacy policy says Amazon "knows
that you care how information about you is used and shared, and we
appreciate your trust that we will do so carefully and sensibly."  In
all honesty, most people don't need to read any farther than this.
But they go on to explain in considerable detail exactly what data is
collected when you visit or make purchases from the site, and how that
information is used.  I've never seen a commerce site go to such
lengths to spell it out so clearly.  There's no evil lurking in the
shadows of the new Amazon privacy policy.
Where's The Beef?
So what's all the controversy about?  The major change in the policy
was the addition of the explicit notice that "in the unlikely event
that or substantially all of its assets are acquired,
customer information will of course be one of the transferred assets."
Well wouldn't you expect that?  Wouldn't you as a consumer WANT that?
If Amazon was purchased by another company, I sure would appreciate if
the new company kept my shipping info, preferences, wish list, reviews
and order history on file so I didn't have to re-enter all that info.
Another item that seems to have attracted some suspicion is the
revelation that Amazon employs "other companies and individuals to
perform functions on our behalf. Examples include fulfilling orders,
delivering packages... processing credit card payments, and providing
customer service."
Just about every large company vendors out some or all of these tasks.
It shouldn't raise any eyebrows that Amazon uses a trusted third party
to process credit cards or deliver packages.  When you order a sweater
from L.L. Bean, do you stay up nights worrying that Fedex now has your
street address or phone number?  Didn't think so...
Axe To Grind?
Every time I defend an online company that's been unfairly maligned,
or even mention that I prefer one site over another, people accuse me
of being on that company's payroll.  Think what you want, but it just
isn't so.  Better yet, read the Amazon privacy policy for yourself and
draw your own conclusions. 
That's all for now, see you next time!  --Bob Rankin
The Internet Tourbus - U.S. Library of Congress ISSN #1094-2239
Copyright © Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen - All rights reserved
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TOURBUS - 05 SEP 00 - Homework Help  /  Amazon Privacy, viruses, hoaxes, urban legends, search engines, cookies, cool sites
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