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Missouri’s attorney general filed a lawsuit Aug. 13 against Internet retailer More.com, saying that the San Francisco-based Internet retailer violated its privacy policy by sharing customer data with a third party. Attorney General Jay Nixon is asking the Circuit Court in Greene County, Mo., to issue an injunction prohibiting More.com, which sells “health, beauty and wellness products,” from “misrepresenting” its business practices to its customers. Nixon also is asking for unspecified penalties and court costs. “Consumers have a right to be upset when the companies giving them assurances of privacy and non-disclosure are not keeping their word,” said Nixon in a statement. According to Nixon’s office, one of his investigators attempted to order contact lenses through More.com using a fake name. Subsequently, another company, Lens Express, solicited the same investigator. More.com’s privacy policy states the company “does not give, sell or rent your personal information to third parties for purposes other than fulfilling your request.” In a statement, the company said it “maintains an unwavering commitment” to its customers’ privacy. “We have not been able to obtain the facts pertaining to this complaint. Until we do, we are unable to respond specifically to this issue,” said the company in its statement. “However, as a company policy, More.com does not give, sell or rent customers’ personal information to third parties.” A More.com spokeswoman said Lens Express is a “fulfillment partner” of More.com. The More.com statement said that fulfillment partners “receive customer information for shipping purposes or verification of prescription information only.” Lens Express spokeswoman Deborah Kania declined to comment because her company is still investigating the allegation. But Kania said Lens Express doesn’t solicit its partners’ customers. Missouri’s lawsuit comes as a growing number of state and federal legislators are deciding that industry self-regulation fails to protect consumers’ online privacy. Several legislative bills are pending in Congress. Although none of them is likely to get passed this year, the issue will be high on Capitol Hill’s agenda in 2001. The National Association of Attorneys General is preparing a report on the subject that is expected to recommend new national legislation that doesn’t pre-empt the states’ own law enforcement efforts. The TRUSTe privacy-seal program endorses More.com’s privacy policy. TRUSTe spokesman Dave Steer said TRUSTe is “closely looking into the matter.” Privacy advocates are likely to point to the Missouri lawsuit as yet another example of why industry self-regulation is inadequate. Recently, Amazon.com met with an outcry after it changed its privacy policy to permit itself to share customer data with affiliates. Related Articles from The Industry Standard: It’s Privacy Week Behind the Curtain Copyright � 2000 The Industry Standard

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