Yahoo!, eBay Cancel Personal Data Auctions

Citing privacy concerns, Yahoo! Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO) and online auction giant eBay, Inc. (Nasdaq: EBAY) have halted auctions offering a mailing list of 200,000 U.S. investors to the highest bidder, the Wall Street Journal reported today.

Orlando, Florida-based Market Logistics Group, Inc. sought bids on both Yahoo! and eBay’s sites for its investor mailing list, comprised of names, addresses and daytime and evening telephone numbers.

eBay stated that it closed down Market Logistics’ auction twice on the grounds that it violated the online auctioneer’s terms of use, which prohibit the sale of bulk mailing lists.

Yahoo! also nixed Market Logistics’ offering two days after it was listed, when they became aware of an unauthorized news release promoting the sale of the mailing list on Yahoo!.

Target: Middle-Aged Males

Marketing Logistics claims on its Web site that its mailing lists are comprised of “100-percent known investment inquiries [with] no compiled names of ‘assumed” investors,'” and that its listed investors average 95-percent male, with an age range of 45-65 years old, an average income of over $75,000 (US$) and a net worth of over $150,000.

The site also states that the company was founded in 1992 to “serve as a direct-response, lead-generation service for small-cap, publicly-traded companies.” Market Logistics boasts that it is “the acknowledged master of locating and communicating with qualified individual investors that are anxious to participate in promising opportunities.”

Checking Terms of Service

According to published reports, Michael Dambro, President of Market Logistics, said he read eBay’s terms of use prior to listing the auction and found no potential violations. He said he later realized it was against eBay’s policy to give potential bidders a toll-free number if they wanted to purchase lists in the future, so he removed the number the second time he listed the auction.

eBay based its second removal of Market Logistics’ auction on the preservation of privacy.

The move by eBay and Yahoo! comes as privacy issues become of increasing concern to companies engaged in e-commerce. A recent Forrester study noted that 50 percent of online consumers want the government to regulate online privacy. Such consumers are less apt to shop online or will spend less than other consumers, according to the study.

Forrester estimated that as a result of privacy worries, e-commerce companies lost $2.8 billion last year.

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