RealTime IT News

eBay Reconsidering Privacy Stance

Auction giant eBay Inc. is said to be updating a portion of its recently revised privacy policy following a watchdog group's complaint to the Federal Trade Commission that the initial revisions might constitute "unfair or deceptive trade practices."

Online privacy advocate Junkbusters.com had asked the FTC for an investigation, objecting to language in a new section entitled "Conflict of Terms" near the end of the policy.

There, it stated that "if there is a conflict between the terms and conditions in this privacy policy and other privacy representations that may appear on our site (e.g. privacy tools, easy to read summaries, charts and P3P statements), you agree that the terms and conditions of this privacy policy shall control."

An eBay spokesman was quoted in reports today as saying that the company is revising its revision to encourage its members to read the official privacy policy if they have any doubts or are confused.

Junkbusters.com President Jason Catlett, citing a Wall Street Journal story, said the proposed change would make the section read as follows:

"It is our goal to make our privacy practices easy to understand. We have created easy-to-read summaries, privacy principles, a privacy chart and, are working on privacy enhancing technology to help summarize our full privacy policy. If you have questions about any part of this summary or if you would like more detailed information, we encourage you to review our full privacy policy."

Catlett said today that "eBay should never have attempted to impose on its users such a profoundly anti-consumer contract clause. It illustrates the folly of leaving privacy up to the convenience of corporate America."

Catlett in the letter to the FTC accused eBay of "providing a misleadingly rosy picture" of the company's privacy practices in other, more prominent places on the site, while explicitly repudiating those representations elsewhere.

In response, eBay spokesman Kevin Pursglove told InternetNews.com at the time that "...eBay does not provide, sell, rent, share or in any other way disclose personally identifiable information to third parties." The changes were part of an annual review of the company's user agreement and privacy policy, Pursglove said.

Meanwhile, eBay has quietly launched an Instant Messenger trial with America Online , allowing AOL IM users to get information about their accounts from eBay.

An eBay spokesman told InternetNews.com that the new service uses interactive agent technology from New York City-based ActiveBuddy Inc., and a spokesman there confirmed that the application has been licensed by eBay.

ActiveBuddy markets software and hosting solutions that let marketers, content providers, service providers and other enterprises deploy interactive agents that deliver a personalized information across all platforms that support interactive text messaging.

"The high-speed smart application delivers eBay information via instant messaging to AOL members," Pursglove said. "The 'my eBay Buddy' AIM can provide information about registering, customer support or bidding, among other subject areas."

AOL members have to add the "my eBay Buddy" to their Buddy List before they can use the beta service. "At this time we are testing the service only through AOL, Pursglove said.

The app is "customer-driven, you can talk with it," an ActiveBuddy spokesman said.