eBay Australia rolls out anonymous messaging

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eBay.com.aueBay Australia has announced the roll-out of anonymised emails between eBay members. Pre-sale ASQs will no longer show the sender’s email address, but will instead be sent with a temporary eBay-based email address. Recipients will be able to replay directly through their email client to this address, and eBay will forward the messages to the correct, real-world email. The email addresses used by eBay are composed of an apparently-random string of 10-14 letters and numbers: how long these “temporary” addresses remain valid isn’t yet clear. Members where an item has already been purchased will be able to see each other’s email addresses as normal.

Currently, eBay are not verifying that the email used to reply is the “correct” one – i.e. that it matches up with the eBay account to which the message was sent. This is, they say, a “short grace period”, presumably to allow members to ensure their registered email addresses match the ones their email client uses.

So today I’ve been able to reply to trial messages with emails registered with other eBay accounts, and emails that aren’t linked with any eBay account at all, and in all cases, messages sent from the ‘wrong’ email address still arrive with eBay subject lines suggesting they’ve come from the correct eBay member.

If a phisher gets hold of one of these temporary email addresses, or randomly generates the correct sequence of letters and numers, right now eBay’s own system will make their messages look genuine. The only security at present appears to be the obscurity of the email addresses themselves: with the vast amount of processing power at phishers’ disposal, generating some correct matches surely isn’t going to be difficult. eBay would have done better to give members more information about this in advance, so that registered addresses and email clients could have been made to match, rather than leaving the system so insecure, even if temporarily.

There’s currently no published timeline for the implementation of this system on other eBay sites, though it is expected to roll everywhere in the next few months.

15 Responses

  1. So how are we going to send photos? I get plenty of “can you send me a photo of the CD label” or “please send me a picture of the type of clips you use on clip on earrings”.

    I suppose I’ll have to ask people to send me their email addresses in a message, but I’m not sure if my messages blocks their inclusion.

    I’m sure it’s just asking for more trouble.

  2. You can send attachments: I just have. (Not sure if there’s any size limitation, however.)

    Re. email addresses in messages, yes, when I’ve sent those, they have been blanked out in the forwarded message.

  3. Seems a rather weak kind of deterrent to possibly conducting off-ebay business? Just another little bit of stupidity in a virtual sea of ebay stupidity!

    Please discuss another really potential hotbed of pain for sellers….Ebay Australia is putting regular ads right smack dab on seller’s item page. The screenshot I saw had some kind of TV company ad right above the beginning of the seller’s description! This kind of thing needs to be nipped in the bud. There seems no end to Ebay’s desperation or their greed!

    Mr. Donahoe – time is getting nearer and my camera is ready and waiting to catch you leaving Ebay for the last time. I promise to make you look good 😉

  4. For sellers with multiple seller id’s a move to sender address verification seems likely to result in some problems. I have two seller id’s, eBay require that they have different registered email addresses but when I’m working I tend to send from just the one address. All can be resolved but it will be an issue for some.

    More important is the responsiveness of the eBay email system. When I send out email from my pc I know it will be routed promptly. When I send or wait for a message via the eBay messaging system I know that it risks significant delay. Most get through but there is a level of uncertainty and some history of unreliability.


  5. AH!!

    Have just looked at the announcement and eBay seem to have catered for those with multiple seller id’s and mail forwarding.

    “If you forward member messages from your eBay registered email account to a secondary email account you should update your preferences in My eBay with this secondary email address.”

  6. The rules re attachments…

    Limitations on emails:
    No embedded images (images that are embedded in the message will be forced to open as attachments).
    The email, including attachments, must be less than 500kb.
    The only attachments allowed are image types – no PDF, Word, or Excel documents.
    Email addresses will automatically be stripped out of pre-sale emails.

  7. I don’t know if I’m missing something here, but how do you send attachments through my messages? I can’t see any way of doing it.

  8. I guess I just need to put my email address in a GIF and start sending that out. Can’t wait for eBay to start scanning those and arbitrarily removing them as well.

    I do like the idea that people can finally start replying directly to their emails though instead of going into the yellow button blackhole. They said they were going to fix that “shortly” two or more years ago. Even Craigslist had a solution for that.

  9. Kate, you can’t send attachments through My Messages: if you want to send attachments, you’ll need to do it from your email program.

    the yellow button blackhole
    Ain’t that the truth. My particular non-favourite was the way you could email UseTheYellowButton@… and not get any error message. I’m really hoping that when they fix the email verification, we’ll at least get bounce messages if it’s been sent from the “wrong” account.

  10. I dont care what they do, or how they do it ,as longs as they all come to the same place,
    at the moment some ebay messages come to my messages, and dont get to my email client ,and others go to my email address without appearing in my messages

  11. oh for the days when you just simply checked your emails
    and not have to spend half your life hunting around checking messages
    and ASQs

  12. WTF? I just got one of these emails from an Australian buyer and there is no respond now button to email them through Ebay.

    So I am supposed to just hit the reply button in my Outlook Express and trust Ebay will forward this email to the buyer AND that it won’t go into their spam folder?

    What a load of junk…..typical Ebay.

  13. 13
    there is a reply option on the top bar in the ebay message works the same as the respond button

  14. This just doesn’t seem like a good idea to me. eBay forces you to use their message system, when half the time it doesn’t work. Then, when your buyer can’t communicate with you, you get your Communication DSR hammered, and then you get suspended…Wait! Perhaps it is working as planned!


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