|Sun Nov 4 2012 13:28:09|
Is eBay's New Email Monitoring Tool Creepy or Social?
By: Ina Steiner
eBay is testing a new tool called "Stuff by eBay" that scans users' emails (past emails and ongoing) and compiles a list of all the items they've ever purchased, wherever they purchased them. The tool was developed by a group of eBay developers based in Tel Aviv.
Yes, eBay has its own development team charged with creating innovative products in the area of social commerce - a different approach than in the past when it relied on third-party developers to create tools for buyers and sellers. The eBay Israel Social Center (ISC) was created when eBay acquired "The Gifts Project" last year and is a self-contained, off-platform unit run as much like a startup as is possible for a unit owned and funded by a corporation.
Ziv Meltzer created the Stuff by eBay tool, which "scans email receipts that merchants send you after you make a purchase." It notes that "other emails will not be scanned."
The Stuff by eBay webpage doesn't make clear its value proposition. A hint is provided for those who choose to provide feedback - the feedback form asks, "How useful is this page in helping you organize your online purchases and help you determine what you could sell?"
One reader who received an email for Stuff by eBay was turned off by the message, "Hi, we're from eBay ... and WE are WATCHING."
He wrote, "Perhaps someone can think of a single legitimate reason for this - for even deeper thinkers; why would eBay expect being monitored would build customer loyalty? Notice that to accomplish this eBay is scanning emails ... sound familiar? Stunning, even by eBay standards."
However, in tiny print on the homepage, you can find FAQs that make it clearer why someone might want to sign on - "Imagine a world where you can find all your receipts, return policies and all other relevant product information neatly organized on a purchase timeline." Users can also share their purchase information with friends on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter; users can save money "by following our price drop notifications"; and users can "even sell old stuff on eBay in one click."
The tool currently supports Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL and iCloud and explains, "If you have shopped in the past using other accounts, you can always forward the receipts to alternative email addresses and we will be able to scan the receipts."
The tool is powered by Slice, which is a free service that organizes everything a user has purchased online from Amazon, eBay, Apple, Groupon, LivingSocial and other retailers. Slice explains the benefits of its service: "You do the shopping, and we'll take care of the rest - from tracking packages, to giving you all the info you need to facilitate a return."
Wouldn't people feel more comfortable using Slice.com directly if they wanted to aggregate all their online purchases? And would creating such a list really tempt you to sell your old stuff on eBay, even if you could do so in one click? Overall, this tool might creep people out more than inspire them to sell on eBay. Especially if eBay is choosing to go with the message, WE are WATCHING.
You can read the Terms of Service for Stuff by eBay on this page. Let us know if you think people will agree to let eBay scan their emails.