Amazon unit faces $1.9M payout in privacy settlement

Amazon.com subsidiary Alexa Internet has settled a lawsuit under terms that require it to pay up to US$1.9 million to users whose personally identifiable information is found in the company's database, Alexa's president said on Friday.

Alexa offers a service that rates content on the Web for users, and provides information about related links and contact information for sites they visit. It does this by way of a browser add-on that retrieves information including URLs (uniform resource locators) about the pages its users visit.

In a series of class action lawsuits filed against Alexa beginning last year, plaintiffs charged that Alexa collected and stored their personal information in violation of privacy laws.

The settlement requires Alexa to pay up $40 to each user whose personal information is found in its database. The San Francisco-based company also agreed to donate $100,000 to Internet public policy programs and consumer groups, and has agreed to delete data it has collected that could be tied to individual users, said Alexa President Brewster Kahle.

"We're confident we would have prevailed in trial," Kahle said. "We entered the settlement to prevent the eventual costs of entering a trial."

Amazon.com official declined to comment, referring questions to Alexa.

Kahle claimed that his company doesn't know how much information about its users is stored in the database.

"Alexa has a lot of users," he said. "How much personal information (is there)? We don't know, we've never looked."

He said the company has a tough privacy policy in place and said the company has never tried to match any of the data that is collected to individual users.

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