EBay Bows to Pressure Over New Privacy Policy

Under fire from privacy advocates, EBay (Nasdaq: EBAY)has changed a new privacy policy that wasscheduled to go into effect Tuesday for new users and on April 19th for registered users.

The policy, posted on the site last month,told users that it was intended to be the lastword on EBay’s practices, despite what the company mightsay on other parts of the site.

Flurry of Complaints

Privacy advocates complained that the new policy wouldallow EBay to misrepresent its privacy practices bymaking claims throughout the site that were notsupported — or perhaps were even contradicted — by themain privacy policy.

“It’s bad enough that the lack of real privacystandards put the burden on users to figure out whattheir privacy exposure is at each site,” DavidMartin, principal investigator of the PrivacyFoundation, told the E-Commerce Times.

“EBay’s proposed change was tantamount to saying that theycouldn’t keep their message consistent within theircompany, and turning it into the user’s responsibilityto know which statement was authoritative.”

EBay Capitulates

In the wake of those concerns, EBay agreed to changeits policy slightly. The auction giant now encourages users to readthe full privacy policy rather than asking them toagree that the full policy is the only definitiveprivacy statement on the site.

The new section reads: “We have created easy-to-readsummaries, privacy principles, a privacy chart andare working on privacy enhancing technology to helpsummarize our full privacy policy. If you havequestions about any part of this summary or if youwould like more detailed information, we encourage youto review our full privacy policy.”

The Final Word

Despite the softer language, EBay noted that it stands by itsprevious statement that the full policy is the lastword on the subject of privacy.

“We are beginning to offer a variety of helpfulprivacy pages, summaries and technologies that willhelp you evaluate our privacy practices. However, wewant to be absolutely clear that the privacy policy iswhat you should rely upon and is the default documentin the event of a dispute,” the company said in a posting onits site.

“To me,” Privacy Foundation’s Martin said, “this sounds more like an attempt to defendthemselves against potential in-house sloppiness than an attempt to mislead users.”

“But I’m glad they backed off on the change.”

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