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Advertising Social Networks Spam The Courts The Internet

German Court: "Sharing" Your Amazon Purchases Is Spamming (reuters.com) 195

An anonymous reader writes: A court in Germany has ruled that the 'Share' links which Amazon provides to customers directly after making a purchase at the site are unlawful. The "Share" functionality provides buttons which allow the consumer to signal a new purchase via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or email. The court, ratifying an earlier decision made at a lower court, declared that emails initiated via the Share function constitute "unsolicited advertising and unreasonable harassment."
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German Court: "Sharing" Your Amazon Purchases Is Spamming

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Thanks for the post, I'll have to check it out.

  • by mmiscool ( 2434450 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @03:35PM (#51368093)
    Seems like freedom of speech to me
    • by randm.ca ( 901207 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @03:38PM (#51368115) Homepage
      What do the emails look like? Is there any "speech" from the user, or do they just plug in an email address and amazon does all the "speaking"?
      • by stephanruby ( 542433 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @03:51PM (#51368243)

        What do the emails look like? Is there any "speech" from the user, or do they just plug in an email address and amazon does all the "speaking"?

        I assume it is like most commercial Share buttons.

        Amazon pre-fills the form pretending to speak on behalf of the buyer, but that person can edit that text however he/she wants.

        • by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @04:07PM (#51368397) Homepage Journal
          You know..I've seen these buttons on the completion of sales...and wondered if that many people actually share or notify friends when they BUY something?!?!

          Seriouslyl? I mean...why?

          I know there are some people out there who like to brag, or show off....but I can't believe that is in the majority out there, is it?

          Are there really a significant enough number of people that actually 'share' some if not all of what they buy online??

          • only place i can see it being useful is video games,

            oh frankie bought mario kart 354 extreme edition? that sounds fun, ill scoop it and we can play
          • The idea is you think someone else would be interested in the item and want to share it with them. Share buttons provide a quick way to do that.
            • "Share buttons provide a quick way to do that."

              Those Share Buttons also 'share' everything they can obtain from your connection with themselves, they all do that, that's why they are called trackers.

              And since they are everywhere nowadays, they'll know everything you ever did on the web, even if you never click on one in your life.
              That's where Ghostery comes in.

          • I've often wondered the same thing myself. I've never "shared" information about what I buy because even my best friends and family don't really give a shit about what I'm buying.
          • Two words: Conspicuous consumption [wikipedia.org].
        • by Jhon ( 241832 )

          Bah. Posting to undo an unintended down-mod. Someone give this an upmod. Two to make up for my stupidity.

    • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @03:41PM (#51368139) Homepage

      It's freedom of speech if you take the link, copy it into Facebook or Twitter and say "just got me one of these babies".

      It's spam when a commercial entity gives you a quick means of shilling their product without stopping to think "do my friends really give a shit?" It's doubly spam if your friends email is ever provided to Amazon in this process without their consent.

      Because if your friends didn't give Amazon permission to send email, pretending like you spontaneously sent the email is kind of bullshit.

      No, sorry, making commercial communication appear to have been a spontaneous outpouring by consumers is a shady way of getting around stuff like opt-in.

      • by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @03:52PM (#51368255)
        Personally I think people should be allowed to use the quick one-button solution. It let's me know who I can unfriend/unfollow for being a prat.

        But who I am kidding, most user generated content on social media sites isn't much better than this spam. I hope the kill off the rest of the "share to x" buttons out there because there's plenty of other crap beyond just Amazon or online retailers.

        I had a great idea for a Facebook replacement, but it turns out there's already plenty of prior art for meeting at a pub and having a beer with friends so I don't think I can get a patent.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It's doubly spam if your friends email is ever provided to Amazon in this process without their consent.

        THIS. It is not okay to spam me just because one of your customers has me in their address book, Facebook friends, etc. and you got their permission. You did not get my permission. The amount of bullshit spam I was getting from LinkedIn, because other people installed that app and it harvested all of their contacts to send spam to, got so bad I had to block LinkedIn's IP ranges from connecting to my mail server. Some companies think it's reasonable to spam their customers and everyone they know, as if ther

        • Hey, dude. Amazon didn't spam anyone. They simply helped your "friends" do it in exactly the same way that social media sites are intended to.

      • It's spam when a commercial entity gives you a quick means of shilling their product without stopping to think "do my friends really give a shit?" It's doubly spam if your friends email is ever provided to Amazon in this process without their consent.

        I would argue that it's spam only in the case where Amazon send direct messages to people without their consent. If they make it easier for you to do it, but their own servers don't actually get involved, I can't see the problem - then it's the purchaser who's sending the message, regardless who composed it.

        I guess with the email option, it must be Amazon's servers that send the message - in which case I fully agree that constitutes spam.

      • by pla ( 258480 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @04:00PM (#51368331) Journal
        without stopping to think "do my friends really give a shit?"

        So, basically no different from the entire rest of Facebook?

        "I just ate a bag of Doritos" - I don't give a shit.
        "Look at these pictures of my new puppy/baby/ocelot/car/hairstyle" - I don't give a shit.
        "I just bought a new Dyson Vacuum on Amazon" - I don't give a shit.
        "Sally has just changed her relationship status to emotional blackmail" - I don't give a shit.
        "I just took a great big shit" - Nope, I still don't give a shit.
        • by Xenx ( 2211586 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @04:34PM (#51368615)
          But.... ocelot.
        • by pregister ( 443318 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @04:58PM (#51368871)

          Why do you not realize it isn't the quality of your friends' posts that is poor, but the quality of your friends?

          • A friend is some one who organizes a rescue party as soon as he knows my plane crashed in the sahara.
            If he used facebook for that, it is fine for me.

            If he spams me on facebook with his last purchases I probably make a group for him alone, put him inside and remove the 'post on my timeline' or what ever ... bottom line: he is still,my friend even if he posts retarded nonsense.

          • While that makes a funny one-liner, I find the fact that it's being modded insightful is a bit worrying. There's not really a correlation between the quality of a person and the quality of their social media postings.

            At the risk of pulling in an anecdotal counter-example, I knew someone who IRL was one of the most sleazy and manipulative bastards I've ever met. He flat out told me he was in the CS program at school despite having no interest or affinity for CS because "nerds made good targets" for his so
          • by antdude ( 79039 )

            "I don't give a shit." :P

      • by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @04:01PM (#51368335) Homepage Journal

        I couldn't agree more. In fact, there's a petition to prevent people from sending one-click spam to other people. Click here [http] to sign it. It will automatically detect who your representative is from your IP address and send him a letter.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ScentCone ( 795499 )

        It's freedom of speech if you take the link, copy it into Facebook or Twitter and say "just got me one of these babies".

        It's spam when a commercial entity gives you a quick means...

        Nonsense. Is it legit if you hand write a letter to your grandma about your purchase, but spam if you use a pre-printed letter that came in the box, and you fill in a few blanks before mailing it to grandma? No? Specifically why or why not?

        • by vux984 ( 928602 )

          Is it legit if you hand write a letter to your grandma about your purchase, but spam if you use a pre-printed letter that came in the box, and you fill in a few blanks before mailing it to grandma?

          What if the retailer, at the time of sale, simply says "mind if we tell your grandma"? If the answer is "no", then she fills out the letter, including the blanks, and even mails it for you?

          One difference that immediately springs to the forefront is that in the former scenarios *I* clearly mailed the letter. I filled out the form, I dropped it in the outgoing mail box.

          In the latter the retailer sent it, at best, 'with my permission'.

          • In the latter the retailer sent it, at best, 'with my permission'.

            1) Why are you putting quotes around 'with my permission' ... what you're describing is exactly with your permission.

            2) How does the retailer have your grandma's postal address?

            • I don't know about the letter analogy (it seems a bit incoherent tbh), but I'd definitely put "with my permission" in quotes for the software side of things just because of how easy it is to hide permission inside an EULA or a very easy to click by accident button (looking at you, amazon one-click purchasing).
            • by vux984 ( 928602 )

              1) Why are you putting quotes around 'with my permission' ... what you're describing is exactly with your permission.

              Because the letter I authorized based on their description of the service, and the letter that was actually sent (details buried in fine print, or perhaps not disclosed at all?) bear very little resemblance.

              For example, if I order flowers to be delivered to my grandmother, and there's a box that says "include courtesy call to coordinate delivery" and I tick it, with this vision of you calling dear grams and confirming she'd be home that afternoon to receive them in person.

              But instead you use that courtesy

        • It is spam as you don't write a single email to your grandma but to everybody amazon or the social site considers your 'friend'.
          Perhaps you start to grasp the concept of automated mass mailings to people who don't want those mails eventually.

          Or do you really think a german granny sued her grandson or amazone?

          • I think someone who never actually clicked the button sued Amazon.

            It is amazing how many hoops people are willing to jump through trying to prove that Person A asking (or giving permission to) Person B to do something on behalf of Person A is not Person A doing it.

            Next up will be a ruling claiming that social media itself is violating some law or the other because "automated list processing" instead of personally writing every damn note with quill and ink.

        • by Tom ( 822 )

          Because there is a difference between one and one hundred. Even very small children who can't yet count till three intuitively understand that.

          The problem with spam is the sheer volume. It's a classic tragedy of the commons: If you allow one company to send UCE, you have to allow all of them, which - due to the cost being near zero - means all of them will do it, which means e-mail becomes useless.

          Actually, did someone put me into a time machine back to the early 90s? Why do I even have to explain that? I t

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Except that the way these things actually work is I, Amazon's customer, authorize Amazon to post this message to my facebook, twitter, etc account. It then becomes visible to anyone who can see my social media feeds, and automatically notifies anyone who gets notifications about activity on my feeds.

        So, anyone seeing my shared purchase info, has opted in to seeing whatever crap I post to the stream, and I authorised this post.

        It's an asinine thing to do, but ultimately it is not in any philosophical way equ

      • by jdavidb ( 449077 )
        The easy solution to this is to not be friends with someone anymore if they do this to you. Taking it to a court of law is a far worse offense than the spam from a friend.
      • But presumably it only goes to your acolytes, or whatever they're called?

        Don't want to know every time Quim Cardassian buys some new knickers? Don't sign up to her list.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by frogcode ( 1931414 )
      While I'm sure Germany has laws that allow people to speak their minds, It's probably not like the United State's First Amendment which at times doesn't apply either in cases of libel or slander.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Seems like freedom of speech to me

      All spammers could claim the same "freedom of speech" defence.

      Fortunately the world is not quite stupid enough to accept that as a valid excuse for what is very clearly unsolicited advertising.

      • Fortunately German courts are not quite stupid enough to accept that as a valid excuse for what is very clearly unsolicited advertising. (FTFY)

        In many countries, free speech wins over consumer protection. A notable example is the USA, where "corporations are people".

        • This case is about the share button, when you buy something and the court is getting its knickers in a knot about nothing.

          In German culture, it would be crude and crass for someone to put that into their social media feed or send an email. The number of people who do this kind of thing is astonishingly small. That they actually felt the need to forbid it is the odd part. Then again, it should not surprise me that they'd mandate social norms. You are not allowed to give you kid a nontraditional name.

          • A german court does not do this on his own accord (would an US court?), someone sued Amazon, thats all. And the court ruled: what Amazon is doing is the same as spamming, regardless that a customer is clicking the button and a social media is distributing the 'mail' which clearly comes from: Amazon.

            • Yes, what the German court ruled is that a corporation has no right to ask a customer if the corporation should do some list processing on behalf of the customer. Everyone realizes that, even in Germany, rulings at that level are about legal principles and not about the two entities named in the case, right?

              Next up will be Microsoft and Google docs for providing mail merge functionality.

        • From a guy who learns about court cases by reading blogs written by people with an agenda instead of reading court cases. The ruling you are referring to said nothing about corporations being people; it simply pointed out that corporations (especially corporations formed for the sole purpose of pooling money to make political speech) retain all the rights of the individual people that formed the corporation and directed the corporation to do something.

          The ruling also pointed out that all the idiot employees

      • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @04:04PM (#51368367)

        Fortunately the world is not quite stupid enough to accept that as a valid excuse for what is very clearly unsolicited advertising.

        It's not unsolicited advertising. If you don't like seeing communication that the friends and contacts YOU HAVE CHOSEN TO HEAR FROM are sending out through deliberate action on their part, then you simply have poor choice in friends and are trying to blame someone else.

        • After I ran out of points to upmod you with...

        • by thoromyr ( 673646 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @04:47PM (#51368765)

          in what way is the advertising unsolicited? the receiver did not ask their friends to spam them.

          You wouldn't by any chance represent a sales or marketing type, would you? I had to deal with a spammer for a while (as in, supporting his activities). Even though he was buying software to harvest emails to send unwanted and unsolicited email, he too found ways to justify his activities.

          What was particularly memorable was dealing with his complaints about his spam being filtered out as being spam. He insisted and swore up and down that it wasn't. Unfortunately for him, spam filters are pretty good these days and even if *he* as the *sender* didn't feel like it was spam, the rest of the world disagreed.

          So, yes, it *is* unsolicited advertising. I'm glad you don't have my email address because by the sound of things you wouldn't honor any request to quit fucking spamming me.

          • It's not unsolicited advertising. It's an email from a friend that you don't give a shit about. Before Amazon provided an easy way for them to send the news of their recent order then they would have gone to their email client and sent you an email from there. You wouldn't have called that spam.

          • When you signed up for a social media account and said you were interested in seeing things that your friends posted, then yes, you solicited that communication. Do you have any clue what social media is and what it does?

            And if you were my "friend" and asked to be removed from my contacts list, yes, I would do that. As others have said, you have (had?) a crappy friend.

        • It's not unsolicited advertising. If you don't like seeing communication that the friends and contacts YOU HAVE CHOSEN TO HEAR FROM

          It must be nice living in the future. At least, I presume that's where you're EMPHATICALLY writing from, since here in the present, IMAP4 doesn't require that you Follow/Friend someone before they can e-mail you...which was one of the ways that this spam went out from Amazon.

          • It must be nice living in the future. At least, I presume that's where you're EMPHATICALLY writing from, since here in the present, IMAP4 doesn't require that you Follow/Friend someone before they can e-mail you...which was one of the ways that this spam went out from Amazon.

            The only time that such a message was produced in connection with a transaction at Amazon was when the person who BOUGHT the stuff at Amazon personally took the action of launching the notification to the people who follow them on social media. Amazon didn't dip into their mailboxes and spam anybody.

            • So, then please explain me in your simple laymen words how a click of your friend on an Amazon web page leads to a 'mail' which you receive without involving Amazon sending that 'mail' to you?
              Magic?

    • by prefec2 ( 875483 )

      It is not. Sending adverts to all your friends is spam not freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is about the right to be not censored by the government to suppress political, scientific and religious opinion. It is definitely not about ones last purchase, which is just something for a narcissistic person to express their self-importance. It often helps to visualize such posts as messages or letters to all your friends. It is annoying to get all these totally unimportant messages.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by umafuckit ( 2980809 )

      Seems like freedom of speech to me

      You know what? Freedom of speech is there to protect important stuff, not bullshit like this. There is no absolute freedom of speech because there are already several forms of speech that, as a society, we deem illegal [wikipedia.org]. So if a court decides that a vendor encouraging people to advertise for them for free is spamming, then I'm happy to take that in the spirit in which it is intended and not debase the important right to freedom of speech to defend Amazon. Where your rights are actually being eroded is by thi

      • No, freedom of speech means the government is not in the business of deciding what is bullshit and what is valuable (from a speech perspective).

        If freedom of speech means exactly that the government has a responsibility to censor based on the content of the message, then you have truly found the Orwellian definition of it.

    • Then maybe this ruling would not happen in the US.

      But this is Germany, and European countries have different interpretations of 'Freedom of Speech': Freedom of speech in Germany. [wikipedia.org]

      And, if you ask me, it is for the best. If applied in the US, it would cut some of the utter nonsense I hear everyday when I turn on the news.

      • So the current Amazon Prime offering that is based on one of Phillip K. Dicks novels would be banned in Germany because of the prominent use of the swastika? Or is it only certain, government approved, uses of the the swastika that are acceptable. So Germany could restrict a movie that featured swastikas even it if wasn't promoting Nazism but they still didn't like the content?

        And if Germany were truly enforcing its laws in an unbiased manner, nearly every posting on slashdot originating in Germany would be

      • Sorry but after seeing articles and videos by Germans (criticising Germany's handling of migrants) censored as "hate speech", you most decidedly do not have free speech over there.

    • Wait wait wait... its illegal for Amazon to have a click-share button. But the Slashdot story has a click share button, both linked articles have click-share buttons (and code to send metrics to FB and Google even if you dont click), all 4 articles *they* link to have click-shares. Even Angela Merkel's web page has a Facebook share button. None of that is "unreasonable harassment" but Amazon is? Because some German Amazon reseller got all pissy that another Amazon reseller was selling more than him? Faceboo
    • We are talking about spam emails here.
      Not about freedom of speech.
      I'm pretty sure you have a spam filer, too.

    • Seems like freedom of speech to me

      What? People go to Amazon, click a button, thereby performing unpaid advertising work for the company, and that counts as 'speech'? Certainly not speech by the customer; nor indeed thought. It is advertising, carried out by Amazon and sent out unsolicited. It is clearly SPAM, and the involvement of a customer's click is merely a new way of finding addressees. Odious. Underhanded. Not speech.

    • by ACE209 ( 1067276 )

      No - it's about unsolicited advertising

      The point is: your "friends" cannot decide that you want that advertising. Only you can.

  • Jawohl, mein herr!

    Fun fact: Amazon doesn't pay any taxes in Germany, they're all "profits" "realized" in Ireland.

    Where it pays no taxes too.

  • by mseeger ( 40923 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @04:00PM (#51368323)

    Court verdicts are not easy to read, but they managed to garble it further.

    The verdict is not about sharing your purchases but the unsolicited sharing of offers from marketplace vendors.

  • So, when are they going to rule on all those pictures of meals on facebook. Like, yeah, wish you were here, but bring your AmEx black card.

    A little more seriously, awhile back a relative enabled some odious Netflix feature that posted cover art and a Netflix-generated synopsis of every title he viewed. He watched a *lot* of Netflix. Man, that was annoying. I just turned off any contributions from his account in my news stream. Other family members unfriended him. But the point is, features like this t

    • by godrik ( 1287354 )

      Exactly, it reminds me of the bad old (clearly not good old) "I am listening to Britey Spears - Baby One More Time.mp3" we use to see every 3 minutes on IRC.

      No one gives a shit...

      • Exactly, it reminds me of the bad old (clearly not good old) "I am listening to Britey Spears - Baby One More Time.mp3" we use to see every 3 minutes on IRC.

        No one gives a shit...

        Agreed. Except that, you have to feel a little sorry for someone so culturally bereft.

    • by vux984 ( 928602 )

      I'm not sure why people would want this (amazon) feature anyway.

      "I just bought a Sony X950B on Amazon!"

      Heh, I've already seen it "ruin" Christmas gifts for a few people. Not due to the email spam, but the recently purchased items stuff etc.

      God forbid a whole household use the same tablets or laptops.

  • If this counts as harassment and unsolicited advertisements, why not the junk that fills up my feed when a social media contact "likes" some commercial speech, and MyLinkedFace+ copies the original to what I see? I could get behind that kind of rationale to block the stupid viral content that I often see.

    • Or those stupid "what does this internet quiz say about you" things that people share because they want you to be as fascinated with themselves as they are.

    • by rhazz ( 2853871 )
      Because you opted in to seeing ads on social media, simply by signing up for it. When you sign up for an email account from say, Google, you are not providing consent to Amazon to send you advertisements even if your friends really think you want something.
      • That makes no sense. If I opted in to see ads, I opted in. Whether they come direct from Amazon or via Google is immaterial.

        • by Kjella ( 173770 )

          That makes no sense. If I opted in to see ads, I opted in. Whether they come direct from Amazon or via Google is immaterial.

          No, the question is if there's a valid chain of agreements between the advertiser and the recipient. If Amazon buys ad space on Facebook and I have agreed through their terms of service to receive ads, the chain is valid. Obviously that right doesn't extend to Facebook users in general, if you sign up a spambot of course it's unsolicited because I agreed to receive ads but not from you. So did you in the friend request get explicit permission to send/forward commercial email to me? If not, then you don't ha

          • That still doesn't make sense, unless you mean to say that my friends don't have permission to send me emails, which is clearly an untenable proposition. In this situation, Amazon is suggesting and facilitating the sending of an email by my friend, which is almost exactly the same as something showing up on my social event stream -- Facebook suggests and facilitates the "like" being sent, Amazon suggests and facilitates the "email" being sent.

            • by ACE209 ( 1067276 )

              Only YOU can decide to allow advertising from a certain company.

              Your "friends" cannot make that decision for you. As simple as that.

    • Because it's not email?

      The only mention of Facebook, Twitter, et al above is in the description of the service Amazon provides. The court has only ruled ONE function of that service to be spam - the sending of that message via email.

      email is subject to a lot of anti-spam regulations in most of Western Europe and North America right now. This ruling shouldn't really surprise anyone. It'd be interesting to see whether Amazon's current emails actually comply with CAN SPAM (they probably do, it's a weak ac

  • Doesn't Germany have other more pressing issues to worry about than Amazon?

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