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eBay Responds to Cybersecurity Criticism

eBay was the subject of an investigation by ABC News over its practices with regard to the ease in which it releases information about sellers. The news report was critical of eBay’s practice of providing seller names and locations to those who merely place low bids on a seller’s auctions.

ABC News noted that when its investigator placed a $1 bid on an auction and then completed a simple request on eBay’s website asking for the seller’s contact information, eBay provided the seller’s name – Anita – along with her city and state.

“eBay notified Anita after giving out her information, and at the same time also providing her with our information, but cybersecurity expert Adam Levin says scammers or thieves could use fake information in their profiles to try to get a seller’s information,” the news outlet reported. “A process like this is an enabler for bad guys even though it wasn’t designed to be.”

We asked eBay about its practice, and spokesperson Ryan Moore told us the marketplace will be changing it:

“eBay has been providing buyers and sellers a trusted marketplace to transact for the past 20 years. As eBay continues to evolve, the tools needed to enable seamless commerce on the platform must also evolve. In the past, we’ve allowed active bidders and sellers engaged in an auction to request contact information through a “Find Contact Information” feature for the purpose of helping facilitate a transaction. Due to the low usage of this functionality, as well as enhancements to other forms of communication (M2M), we’ll soon be removing that feature for bidders and sellers engaged in an active auction.”

However, ABC News did not report on another practice that some sellers feel is more violating to their privacy and security, since it gives out sellers’ complete address (including street address) to users who haven’t even necessarily entered into a transaction with sellers.

We asked Moore, “eBay publishes sellers name, address and complete address in marketing newsletters it sends on behalf of sellers. Can you tell me if eBay will be changing that practice as well?”

Moore said, “There are no planned changes.”

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.