Retail tax law is complicated. It gets even more complicated when an
Internet retailer based in one state sells products to customers in
another state. Who pays the state sales taxes, and to which state
government do they go? Privacy issues are also at stake. Do Internet
retailers have to disclose their customers' information to state tax
collectors, or is that protected privacy? These are among the questions
at hand in a complex legal dispute between North Carolina and
Amazon, which is based in Seattle. After the state audited Amazon,
the company responded by filing a complaint in federal court that the
audit was a privacy violation. The New York Times' Noam Cohen explains
The case offers a glimpse at the changed landscape of privacy in the
United States. Under the old model, the law was meant to protect the
public from a snooping government. And the government was generally the
only entity with the resources to snoop on people in a systematic way.
Today, the online snooping (make that “data collection”) never stops.
Can the old tools really prevent the government from closely monitoring
its people when so much information is a mere Internet search away? And
is the government the one we really need protection from?
Want to add to this story? Let us know in comments
or send an email to the author at
mfisher at theatlantic dot com.
You can share ideas for stories on the Open Wire.