November 29, 2004 4:02 PM PST

Amazon keeps kids' data under wraps, regulators say

Amazon.com's virtual toy store is perfectly legal because it doesn't ask children to type in personal information, federal regulators have decided.

A letter from the Federal Trade Commission dated Nov. 24 rejected allegations from advocacy groups that said the online retailer violated the law by targeting its toy store at children under 13 and permitting them to post product reviews without a parent's permission.

The FTC letter, signed by associate director Mary Engle, concludes that the toy site is "not directed to children" and no government action is necessary.

Under a 1998 law called the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, it is unlawful for Web sites "directed to children" to collect personal information from minors under 13 without an adult's consent.

"We think they simply misapplied the law," said Chris Hoofnagle, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). "A Web site can have more than one purpose, but we argued that (the toy site) was primarily directed at children."

Amazon's toy store, which is the online storefront for partner Toys "R" Us, lists toys by categories, ages and brands. It also features commentary directed at older customers, such as a baby registry for expectant parents, a store locator and a solicitation to "Make a donation and make a child smile!"

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