Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Mon July 6 2015 19:45:20

Do Online Sellers Have a Right to Privacy? Some Say No

By: Ina Steiner

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Any seller who has registered a domain for their website on a site like GoDaddy will be familiar with "domain by proxy" services - for an extra fee, you can keep your name and contact information from appearing in the WhoIs database, which anyone can access. But that privacy option may become a thing of the past.

Small online sellers generally expect marketplaces like eBay and Etsy to keep their contact information private, releasing it only to customers after a purchase. Likewise, sellers often choose to keep their contact information private in the WhoIs database when setting up domain names for their websites, especially if they are running a home-based business.

But ICANN, the organization that regulates domain names, is considering a proposal that would eliminate such privacy for any commercial use of websites - meaning anyone could look up a website owner's address - even their home address, if that's what was used to register the domain.

The Wall Street Journal explained the two sides of the controversy. "On one side are the entertainment industry, copyright attorneys and some consumer advocates who want to prohibit websites conducting online transactions from registering anonymously, as an estimated 23% of websites do now," the newspaper explained.

On the other side are companies that register websites and some civil-liberties groups, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

The EFF explains its concerns about the proposal in this blog post, and urges people to let ICANN know how they feel. They have until Tuesday, July 7th.

"The limited value of this change is manifestly outweighed by the risks to website owners who will suffer a higher risk of harassment, intimidation and identity theft," it wrote, and provided ways for people to register their opinions.

EcommerceBytes requires vendors and marketplaces we write about to register their domain names publicly. After all, if a service provider collects a seller's information, that seller should have a way of getting in touch with them. 

Shoppers may feel the same way when making purchases from unknown merchants. But privacy is a major concern among sellers, and such issues have arisen among eBay and Etsy users in the past.

Would you be concerned if your name and address became public in the WhoIs directory when someone looked up your website domain? Or is it the cost of doing business?




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This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen
Web Site

Mon Jul 6 20:34:29 2015

Privacy, yes; total anonymity, no. Buyers are entitled to know who they are dealing with whether it is via B&M or online, for a multitude of reasons ...

Likewise law enforcement is entitled to be able to make contact with sellers of stuff, if necessary ...

The eBay executive suite—where the incompetent mingle with the disingenuous, the malevolent and the outright criminal, and the just plain stupid … http://bit.ly/11F2eas  

Perminate Link for Do Online Sellers Have a Right to Privacy? Some Say No   Do Online Sellers Have a Right to Privacy? Some Say No

This user has validated their user name. by: MJRock

Tue Jul 7 00:34:16 2015

Personally we have had threats of physical harm against myself and my staff.  We quickly anonymized our domain info and made sure all online info went through a PO BOX . . .

Many online sellers work out of their homes. There are too many nuts out there not to have the option for anonymous domain info . . .  

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by: MADandCracked This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jul 7 00:35:39 2015

I sell from home so I have to use my address on my seller accounts. I had a previous buyer show up at my door one day thinking that it was a brick and mortar store. I know that I'm not the only one that sells from home and selling venues should show a bit of privacy for us. There's a reason that we're ONLINE sellers.

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by: Xander This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jul 7 00:43:53 2015

Privacy is important to everyone including online sellers.

I can see the importance of making this information public providing customers/users are having trouble contacting the company by phone and are concerned with their transaction.

Making home business owners contact information readily available to anyone could lead to a potential privacy breach.

Perhaps being a home based seller is risky business these days?

Maybe big business is squeezing their small competitors some more?

Is the name Icann related to ''Carl Icann''?

If so, do small sellers need more proof there is a campaign to crush them out of existence?

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by: walkabout This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jul 7 01:50:59 2015

When they start posting addresses, anyone and their brother can just use google map and see just exactly where one lives.  Street view and all.  Why not just send out invitations - engraved, that is?

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by: Bloggo This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jul 7 01:57:16 2015

Not related to Carl Icahn

https://www.icann.org/

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by: Bloggo This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jul 7 02:00:20 2015

A good read on the subject.

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2015/06/changes-domain-n
ame-rules-place-user-privacy-jeopardy

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This user has validated their user name. by: The End

Tue Jul 7 03:40:53 2015

If you are a sole proprietor :
To qualify for your EV-SSL certificate (green bar for your website) you MUST O.K. the issuer can put your name next to the business name. This is counter intuitive as far as security is concerned. No one should have to have their name in the green bar.
I've experienced a complete nightmare since this happened with this latest renewal.

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by: Biglouis This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jul 7 05:43:54 2015

Im a disabled senior in the UK who trades from home and there is no way Im going to allow my home address openly on the Internet. I use a ''virtual office'' service which gives me a commercial ''street'' address and I utilise that for all my correspondance (including returned packages) and domain registrations.

EU legislation states that online traders have to make publicly available the ''physical address'' from which they do business and gives no concession to people like myself who are vulnerable. This is one piece of the often whacky EU legislation that is often ignored by sellers such as myself. It is unenforceable anyway and I will continue to use an anonymised address to protect my privacy. If anyone wants to contact or correspond with me they can reach me via the office address.

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by: felyne This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jul 7 05:55:23 2015

Having precious metals in my home as a jeweler? I don't want people to know My address. As times get tighter, thieves can use the internet to their benefit, too.

Perminate Link for Do Online Sellers Have a Right to Privacy? Some Say No   Do Online Sellers Have a Right to Privacy? Some Say No

by: KV This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jul 7 07:16:41 2015

Yes, EFF has been all over this. I've owneed two domains since 1995, never used a privacy service and I couldn't care less. A chainsaw rapist in a rice paddy in China could look me up in whois and he would track me down to -- a private mailbox in a shipping store in a strip mall. I have used that address for EVERYTHING for 20 years. I just cannot understand why anyone would give out their personal, home address where they and their children can actually be found to ANY stranger. There's no reason to trust someone just because they're a customer.

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by: sasikat9 This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jul 7 07:25:05 2015

We have aways had a PO BOX.  Fleabay can post all the information they want but try visiting a PO Box or calling a phone number contected to an answering machine that no one answers....Never hear it ring as its wrapped in bubble wrap stuck under a very dark cabinet in the basement.  We only have this phone for Fleabay and the house alarm system.

We have our business name on the Fleabay account and if one does an internet search of the name one will find that the phone number is the one in the basement and the only address is the po box.

We try to protect ourselves from some of the slugs that regularly hunt on Fleabay, Amazon, Ecrater, Etsy etc. and in 19 years have yet to have a phone call.

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by: Zee This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jul 7 07:50:23 2015

I personally don't think that the personal information about sellers should be in the public domain. If the buyer is to obtain such information it has to be regulated very carefully as the safety of the individual is at stake.

I do agree that it should be available upon request, but there needs to be some very strict guidelines.

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Perminate Link for Do Online Sellers Have a Right to Privacy? Some Say No   Do Online Sellers Have a Right to Privacy? Some Say No

by: OnlyPollyPocket This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jul 7 08:13:28 2015

As others have stated, I use a UPS store located nearby for all online transactions, both buying and selling.  It gives me a street address AND convenience of never having to be home to accept packages.  But, mostly, it gives me peace of mind that some of the online whackos out there don't know where I live.

I also have a Magic Jack phone.  Cheap to have and satisfies those that require a phone number.

I am really concerned that so much of our privacy is a thing of the past, on the one hand.  On the other, I do believe that customers have a right to know how to contact a business in the case of a wonky deal.

Tough call but I guess it is up to business owners to protect themselves with addresses other than their homes.


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This user has validated their user name. by: SalesBoy

Tue Jul 7 08:41:56 2015

From the moment I started selling on eBay some 13 years ago I established a pseudonym for my eBay account and rented a PO box.  It occurred to me from the beginning that there are some strange and potentially dangerous loons out there, and  needed to protect my family and myself from them.

All a customer should need is the ability to contact a business and to receive a timely reply to address their questions or concerns.  Anything beyond that is superfluous, and only serves to give looney toons the info they would need to possibly harm the seller. Think of it as the gun a shop keep has just beneath the counter in case of a robbery.  But, with hidden personal info, there are no bullets and no one gets hurt.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Shop and Ship

Tue Jul 7 09:37:20 2015

I agree with the trend of the above posts: privacy is one thing, confidentiality is another. Perhaps regulating authorities occasionally have a need to contact the registered web site owner without serving papers first, but posting personal info on the Internet for no apparent reason is a fool's game. Many on Facebook have regretted doing so.  

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by: Moonwishes This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Tue Jul 7 10:09:47 2015

As a disabled on line seller, I too have concerns about what is being posted. It wouldn't take much for them to track down my address, but I do not want my phone number being listed. I do no business by phone - thus the on line part as others have mentioned. Anything having to do with my business and websites that I run can all be dealt with via email. Some of the biggest companies that we have to deal with as sellers it is near impossible if not completely impossible to contact those companies by phone, yet small sellers have to have that info out there for anyone to see. Ridiculous!

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by: Bidonmine This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jul 7 10:39:51 2015

keep it private and require a court-order to access the information. The only reason someone would absolutely have to have the 'home' address of the seller is in a lawsuit or if they intend to do the seller harm.
All sellers supply an email address which is sufficient for 99.9% of any dealings online.

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This user has validated their user name. by: LDS Brother

Tue Jul 7 10:40:33 2015

No customer, and I repeat no customer should ever have the home address of the seller !

Years ago, I had a buyer 2,000 miles away in the USA where I am the USA, this buyer one the item for dirt cheap, cheaper than any place would ever sell it for, not a pawn shop, not any place.

A few days after they got it, they messaged me up disturbing words, insulting, me, threatening me, telling me they were going to quote : "To come and git me ! And if I think they are joking just wait and see !"

I remember calling eBay and they told me to contact law enforcement ! So yes the sellers VALIDATED home/buinsess address should be in the files for the platform sellers sells on for law enforcement, should they need it. But NEVER and I repeat NEVER should it be available for these nut job, whacko, mentally disturbed evil buyers out there on the internet, to come and rob, hurt, kill, abduct etc.

To many psychotic people out there that do in fact post a very serious risk to the seller and his/her family, I mean if you sell coins, art, jewelry, gemstones or valuable antiques NO buyer should have access to your personal address ! It is ok if eBay or whatever site needs to validate your address, as I said should law enforcement request it, but it does not belong in the hands of potential thieves, killers, psychos, etc.

I might add, the individual paid $20 free shipping for an estate item worth at least $80 minimum, and I was severely threatened that this person was indeed going to come and "GIT" ( How they spelled get ) me and I was told just to wait and see !

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This user has validated their user name. by: LDS Brother

Tue Jul 7 10:41:08 2015

Correction: Won the item

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