Friday, November 4, 2011

Ebay World Profile and Privacy

It's admittedly been a very long time since I've been on Ebay, so a lot of the stuff I'm about to mention may be old news to a lot of people. I was in the market for a PS3 recently and had cause to start using it again. A lot has changed. I frankly find the "new" interface confusing and not at all intuitive.The thing I ran across that bothered me the most though was this "My World" feature.

I Google myself from time to time (including one of my online personas ever since one of my colleagues ran across that information and decided to go on a personal fact-finding mission to see what sorts of things I get into online), and upon Googling one of my usernames found a link to a My World page for me on Ebay that I didn't know existed. It listed my username and my feedback, both given and received. I was able to see this information despite not being logged in to Ebay or Google.

Big deal, you might say. So people can see whether or not you're buying or selling, and whether or not you've either been screwed over or been the "screwer" in one of these transactions. Well, it is a big deal, because everything is perception right? People react to things in unpredictable ways. Bad feedback, the tone of a comment, all of these things can have unknown consequences in a time where your online personality is almost as important and influential as who you are in real life.

In this case, I happen to have an excellent, albeit short, feedback history. No problem on that score. What's my issue then? If an item was purchased or sold within the last 90 days, people can view details about that item. Again, this is public info. Anyone can pull up my "page" and see what I have purchased on Ebay. Color me not a fan.

The only way to disable this is to actually disable public views of your profile. The catch? If you disable public views, you can't sell anything. It's like you have to choose privacy or profit. It would make more sense to me if there were an option to disable true public views of your profile, i.e. only signed in Ebay members can see your profile. Why do random people need to see what you've been up to on Ebay anyway? Barring that, how about the ability to disable item views? Even from other Ebay members. If you're looking at my feedback rating to decide whether or not you want to buy something from me, do you really care about the details of what I've purchased? Isn't it more important that you be able to read the comments of the people who've purchased from me? Heck, I'll even give you that perhaps you want to see what the selling history is. Perhaps you don't want to buy a PS3 from someone who typically sells personal care items. Do you need to see what I've purchased though? For any reason? So long as you can see that I've paid for my stuff on time and without hassle, what do you care?

I've opted to make my profile private. You can see my overall rating, but no details about what I've bought and/or sold. A side effect, as noted above, is that you also can't see any feedback comments and I can't sell anything. Fine. If I decide I need to sell something I will temporarily enable the public view of my account. The whole mechanism seems cumbersome though and designed to limit your ability to maintain any privacy online. When every other tech article is about someone's privacy being compromised, or when social sites like Facebook come under fire when they introduce a new feature that hints at a privacy violation, it surprises me that this My World feature doesn't yield more hits in regards to its privacy policy.

1 comment:

  1. This is a MAJOR flaw in ebay's way of of doing business, you are right.