State officials are trying harder to collect millions of dollars in sales tax owed by residents who buy books, music and other products online.
The world's largest online retailer is resisting.
Amazon.com sued Monday to block North Carolina from gathering personal information about customers and their purchases of more than 50 million products since 2003.
In a complaint filed in federal court in Seattle, Amazon wrote that a request from the N.C. Department of Revenue would violate the First Amendment rights of its customers "on a massive scale" and could hurt the company's business. State officials are seeking customer information as part of an audit of Amazon's compliance with state sales- and use-tax law.
The spat comes as North Carolina tries to collect more tax revenue to bolster its ailing budget. The state threatened contempt proceedings if Amazon doesn't turn over the names and addresses of North Carolinians who have bought products in the past seven years, the company wrote.
Amazon also wrote that it already provides North Carolina information about how much state residents spend on its site. Revealing more personal data would chill customers' willingness to shop at its site, the company argued.
"Each order of a book, movie, CD or other expressive work potentially reveals an intimate fact about an Amazon customer," Amazon wrote.
"The [Department of Revenue] has no business seeking to uncover the identity of Amazon's customers who purchased expressive content," Amazon wrote. "The collection and disclosure of the customer data ... will link those purchases directly to the customers' names and addresses, exposing their otherwise private reading, viewing, listening and other personal choices to government scrutiny."
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