Some of the comments in response to the Ars Technica article are particularly interesting. A number of people have noted that Etsy.com displays the TRUSTe seal on its site. A commenter who tried to file a complaint with TRUSTe about Etsy.com said that it returned a message that Etsy.com is not a TRUSTe licensee, although another TRUSTe web page indicates that they are. It seems like TRUSTe is getting some flak by commenters on ArsTechnica and Wyler-Werve who would like them to look into the situation.
For its part, individuals who said they are employed by Etsy.com posted comments under Jacqui’s report. It seems that Jacqui had the same lack of response from Etsy.com using their contact form as I had. In any event, “egoodman85” writes:
Hey, just want to clarify something as an Etsy employee. It’s not your *purchases* that are public – it’s your feedback on those purchases. I know it’s a small distinction, but it’s not like we have some sort of desire to publicize our members’ purchases. Feedback is public by default just like it is on eBay – to increase accountability and transparency. It’s also worth noting that feedback has been public since the site’s launch (in fact, the option to make it private was only added recently). The new People Search feature does not change this at all.
And Rob Kalin writes:
Some clarifications will be helpful.
Feedback has always been public on Etsy, for our entire six years. It’s *only* the feedback system that makes purchases visible. (It’s not like there’s a canonical list of all my purchases somewhere.) So, nothing new here.
Recently, we added a feature for people to use their real names on Etsy. I personally find my experience on Etsy to be more meaningful, now that I can show who I am. Of course some people won’t want to do this, so it’s optional, and can be changed easily on the site.
We fully realized that combining the above two features results in being able to connect a person’s identity with (some of) their purchases, via the feedback system. As such, and in compliance with our TrustE agreement, we emailed all members prior to adding real names.
This statement is misguided:
> Previously, users could search Etsy for seller names, but the names of buyers were not
> exposed as part of the search. Not only are buyers searchable now, they’re even searchable
> by real name if that info is in their account profiles
Once your real name is on Etsy, it’s indexed by Google, Bing, AltaVista, HotBot, Lycos etc. So adding our own people search is not enabling anything that wasn’t possible before — we’re just making it a bit easier to find folks without leaving Etsy.
We do have plans to give buyers on Etsy the ability to hide feedback for certain purchases. We certainly appreciate privacy, and we spend a lot of time on these issues.
Although it appears that Etsy.com did send out an email a month ago to users about a change, it’s not clear that everyone understood the implications of the change or got the email. Jonathan writes on Eyler-Werve:
I’m glad they’re making changes. But it’s a little late. Etsy users posted 120 pages of complaints, and nothing. One story on Ars Technica, and the policy changes in an hour. Damage control. Not impressive.
The changes Jonathan refers to were posted last night at http://www.etsy.com/teams/7716/announcements/discuss/6818578/.
And even if Etsy.com did send out a notice of the change by email, if they created a default opt-in consent to transactions retroactively so that they now displayed the user’s real name, that is unacceptable as far as this privacy blogger is concerned.
Whether Etsy.com is sued over any of this remains to be seen. So far, none of the commenters have indicated that they are filing an FTC complaint, but that may be another alternative route for dissatisfied buyers or sellers.