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Etsy Sellers Concerned about Privacy Look for Answers

Some sellers are concerned that Etsy could be exposing their personal information publicly thanks in part to the new Shop format the marketplace is rolling out and in part to European Union regulations about consumer rights involving product returns. But an Etsy spokesperson said sellers are in full control of their information with regards to the new feature.

On Tuesday, a seller explained that when she went to edit her Etsy Shop in the new format, Etsy was auto-filling her personal information (We meant to say on Monday). She explained in part:

“When I went into the Edit screen for the new shop format, when I scrolled all the way to the very bottom of the screen, there was a section called “Seller Details” for information to be sent to EU buyers. The screen did not show that this field was already populated with data until I clicked to edit it, whereupon I found that it had been autofilled with my personal (not business) name and my full physical address.”

Her concern was that other sellers might also be unaware of the change, stating that if she had not happened to have clicked on the edit button, she would not have seen that incorrect information had been automatically filled in for her shop.

She and others responding in the thread she started were also concerned about where Etsy was drawing the address information from.

Etsy responded to the concerns in the thread on Wednesday (page nine). Matthew Glick, Etsy’s Product & Commercial Counsel, said the pre-populated information is editable and said none of the information would be made visible to buyers until the seller hits the Save button. However, his response did not seem to reassure sellers. Here’s his complete response:

Matthew Glick 1:34 pm Mar 22, 2016 EDT 
Hey everyone! I’m Matt I work on the legal team at Etsy. To address some of the issues that have come up in this thread, when a seller is in the edit mode of their shop and goes to edit seller details for the first time, we will pre-populate that information based on what we have on file for them. All of the pre-populated information is completely editable. None of the pre-populated information or any edits that the seller makes will be visible to the buyer until the seller hits “Save”. It’s up to the seller to decide whether to include their personal information or business information in the Seller Details field, or to leave that field blank. Etsy will not make the Seller Details available to buyers unless the seller saves the information submitted in the Seller Details field.

Some sellers who said they tried to delete the information in Seller Details said when they returned to the page, Etsy had once again auto-filled the fields with their information.

Adding to the confusion are seller questions about directives from the European Union (EU) around consumers’ rights to return products and the need to publish seller addresses.

An EcommerceBytes reader said the issues were incredibly important to non-EU sellers and whether they would choose to continue selling to countries that are part of the European Union. “It may also be huge to non-EU members who do not wish their private information being posted on the WWW for millions to see,” the reader wrote.

An Etsy spokesperson said there was a misunderstanding, and referred to Glick’s posting in the forum (which we pasted above). He also provided some additional context provided by Dilani Kahawala, Senior Product Manager:

“Whatever contact details sellers provide in the new Seller Details section under More Information will only be visible to EU buyers. However, if sellers use the open text-box policies, there is another field called Seller Information. Whatever sellers put in this field will be shown to all buyers regardless of location. If sellers would like their contact information to be visible only to EU buyers, they should only fill out Seller Details in the More Information section.

“None of the pre-populated information will be visible to the buyer unless the seller intentionally chooses to save it and it is simply a time-saver for those who do.”

We’ve asked for more specifics to address sellers concerned over the EU directives and the information Etsy is displaying to buyers whether or not they may have tried to edit or view their Seller Details field.

While it doesn’t seem complicated to Etsy, it’s one of those cases where things are “clear as mud” to others.

Etsy is working with us to provide further clarification. We advise sellers not to panic and to stay tuned!

Note: A seller writing about the issue in the forums linked to Etsy’s guide called Selling to EU States. It’s looks tremendously helpful for sellers who sell to Europe. It also points out, “as an Etsy seller, you’re expected to know and follow the import laws and regulations of the countries you are shipping to, in Europe or otherwise.”

Update 3/23/16 Etsy provided the following response to address seller concerns with much more clarity this time. One part that could be misleading is this sentence: “Information entered here will only be shown to buyers in the EU.” See the accompanying blog post – “buyers” does not mean your trading partners, it means anyone who accesses the site by indicating their location is an EU country. (It’s very simple to click on “United States” at the bottom of any Etsy page and change location to “United Kingdom,” or “Spain,” and then see sellers’ addresses if the seller has made them available in Seller Details.)

Matthew Glick 1:36 pm Mar 23, 2016 EDT 
Hi everyone,
Thank you so much for sharing your concerns. We’ll do our best to help address the questions raised in this thread.

First, let me assure you that there has been no data breach. There has also been no sharing of any information without sellers’ permission. Etsy has also not displayed any credit card or personal banking information through a seller’s policies or otherwise.

Let me also try to clarify the difference between Seller Information and Seller Details. Seller Information is a free-text field that traditionally appeared in the policies section. Most sellers use this field to provide contact information. Whatever information you write in this field will be visible to all buyers. With the launch of the new Shop Home design, we added a separate section called Seller Details, which you can find at the bottom of your Shop Home in the edit mode. Information entered here will only be shown to buyers in the EU.

The Seller Details section is included in the new Shop Home design to help facilitate compliance with European Union buyer protection laws. Only buyers in the EU will see this information. Etsy does not require this information, and it will not affect your placement in search. However, you will need to be sure you are in compliance with any relevant laws, which may include displaying the info for your business for buyers in the EU. You are not required to populate this section if you don’t wish to do so for whatever reason. By including space for this section, we are merely trying to facilitate compliance by those sellers who believe this requirement is relevant to them and wish to comply.

Both Seller Information and Seller Details can be edited from the new Shop Home. Seller Information is in the old Policies section, while Seller Details is in the More Information section. Again, both sections are optional and can be updated at any time.

We’ve also heard some concerns regarding the information that is pre-populated into the Seller Details. The auto-fill feature was added as a means to save sellers time.

The info that is auto-filled is the seller’s first and last name from our records. The billing address from the credit card on file is displayed for the address. No credit card information is displayed, and, as I mentioned before, the name and address text can be edited at anytime and will only be displayed after you click Save.

If the Seller Details field is deleted, it will stop showing up for buyers. However, if you click to edit later, the auto-filled fields will once again include the text that we grab from your records. Again, the Seller Details will only be displayed after you click Save.

We appreciate your feedback and our product team is investigating ways to better present Seller Information and Seller Details to prevent confusion.

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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.