Isn't it about time buyers got some privacy?

No primary category set

eBay UK announced today that after the end of the auction as well as during it. Sellers will of course be able to see their winner, and the anonmymised bid history page giving limited details of buyer activity over the last 30 days will be visible to all members. This brings eBay UK into line with other global eBay sites. eBay cite research from 2007 which showed that their making bidder IDs anonymous led to a 90% reduction in fake second chance offers.

No doubt those who think that shill bidding is still eBay’s biggest ever problem won’t like this. We’ve rehearsed those arguments often enough round here: those of us on the other side think that stopping people paying out money to receive absolutely nothing at all should be a higher priorty. The twain shall ne’er meet. But what’s really bugging me about today’s announcement is this sentence:

Feedback pages will show the same information as now โ€“ buyers and seller IDs, with comments visible to all.

Comments – and item numbers. If I want to see what you’ve bought on eBay, I can.

I seem to be saying this a lot recently, but eBay is the only ecommerce site where this happens. It’s the only ecommerce site with a “search by bidder” list – which also shows Buy It Now purchases, and means that I can go stalk you, check out what you’ve bought me for Christmas and how much you paid for it. It means that my mother can see the risque underwear I bought, my Labour-supporting friends can see I got Margaret Thatcher’s autobiography, my nephews can see what they’re getting for their birthdays, my partner can see that my shoe and camera lens collections have been augmented *again*… a whole bunch of people can see a whole bunch of stuff that is frankly none of their business.

There are ways to make all this more difficult: sellers can make their listings private, which means that buyer IDs don’t show up on individual listings. Buyers can make their feedback private: though if you search by bidder, though, you can still see what they’ve bought. And of course, you can always get a buying ID, or a series of secret buying IDs, so that the right things stay private from the right people.

The problem with private listings is that they’re forever tainted with the thought that “something dodgy” is going on. They’re not the norm on eBay, and even when they’re for a buy it now so shill bidding can’t be happening, there’s still that hint in some people’s minds. And really, why should I have to have a series of different IDs, with all the verification hassle that now is? I just want to shop, and I don’t want anyone else – not my sellers, not my family – to be able to nosey at that.

It’s time to dump the ability to track buyers across eBay once and for all. Shopping should not be public domain information. Get rid of search by bidder. Get rid of buyer visibility on BIN items. Get rid of any item number or other transaction record in buyers’ feedback. Make – I’ll say it again – shopping on eBay like shopping on every other ecommerce site out there.

20 Responses

  1. hi couldnt agree more everytime i get a good line my comp watches it selling and then stocks same

  2. Why not just scrap user ids and feedback? eBay supports guest buying so make it so only guests can buy. Easy fix.

  3. Maybe the fact that others can see your buying activity is one original aspect of ebay that will remain constant throughout it’s life. In a sea of change, shouldn’t some things remain the same?
    Everyone knows the score here: You buy stuff, folks can see what you bought and who from, big deal. If you have “secret shopping” to do then shop elsewhere, ebay never promised anonimity.

    I agree that if ebay want to be taken seriously as an online sales venue then more anonimity is required, however if it wants to keep it’s original identity of a multi-user community (complete with nosey parkers who dig into your habits and conversations) then it should keep things as they are.

  4. I think visible usernames is one of the original pieces of Ebay magic. I don’t understand why it needed to hide usernames to combat fraudulent second chance offers.

  5. PWB – a little edumacation for you ๐Ÿ™‚

    If your ebay user name was pwb, then the chances are you will also have an email address pwb@hotmail/gmail/aol/yahoo etc – so very easy for a scammer to send you a phishing email, false SCO, payal email etc etc.

    Now perhaps, you will begin to understand why user names are ‘hidden’

  6. they could simply have done away with SCO’s and left the IDs alone

    but as usual they took another little bit of the community feel out of ebay.

  7. Given that buyers can only receive positives, is there any point in feedback comments at all? I’m all for guest buying – it’s money in my pocket at the end of the day, and I’d prefer to be able to sell any of my ebay items to anybody, whether they are a registered member or not.

    I’ve also noticed (in the quiet moments when I have time) that there is a growing number of my customers who have never left any feedback for others. Given that feedback is pretty much a unique quirk to eBay, if a growing number of e-shoppers are being introduced to eBay, they will have no interest in leaving patronising green blobs or comments for people.

    Feedback is not a crucial part of the transaction, and simply adds time and effort to the eBay buying process – people just want to be able to find it quickly, pay for it, and wait a few days for it to arrive for their gratification.

  8. ……is there any point in feedback comments at all?

    Yes…. strangely buyers like getting comments and if it encourages them to keep buying because they think I carefully considered the transaction and typed a unique comment for them I’m all for it ๐Ÿ˜‰

  9. #9 It’s a shame its not compulsary for buyers to leave feedback, considering its compulsory for sellers to recieve enough to get discounts and trade safely without the constant threat of selling sanctions.

    Feedback & DSR’s are ridiculously one sided.

  10. @ # 13

    It didn’t have anything to do with sellers offering items to their underbidders outside of eBay thus escaping listing and FVFs? I didn’t pay attention to eBay related news back then but that was always my assumption. My observation is that the three laws of eBay are as follows:

    1. A feature must not harm the ability for eBay to collect fees.
    2. A feature must not harm a buyer unless it would conflict with the first law.
    3. A feature must not harm a seller unless it would conflict with the first or second law.

  11. Until eBay starts booting the bad buyers–which will take admitting there are bad buyers–sellers still need access to a bidder’s purchase history. How else are they to know that their bidder just recently purchased an identical item to the one they’re selling and will likely do a switcheroo? Or those who resell their purchases after claiming they never received them?

    My category is incredibly low fraud, though. And all of my listings are private at my buyers’ request. I started doing private listings back when feedback 2.0 first made an appearance. That was when the title and price was visible on the buyer’s feedback page as it now appears on the seller’s page.

    I sell romance novels. A few of my buyers didn’t want the titles on their feedback pages, but most didn’t want the price paid visible as they resold their purchases on the same id. I know I can hear the snickers, but romance fiction is a billion dollar (US) industry. UK and AU eBay sellers often import books from the US and resell them. eBay buyers seem to have a difficult time understanding the ‘profit’ concept and get angry when they discover the seller paid less for an item than what they sold it for.

    I agree that a buyer’s purchase history is sensitive information, but given eBay’s reluctance to remove bad buyers, sellers need the few tools that are left to them.

  12. On ebay you are always hiding behind an ID, so why is there an issue with privacy at all? Unless you are using a business ID with your contact details displayed for everyone to see.

    Why would you tell people your buying ID, it must be one of the most uninteresting things about a person.

    And personally, I hate getting shilled. There, I’ve said it. It’s rife on the UK site and ebay do jack about it. If there is to be any spirit of trust and safety, we nee more transparency not less. Sorry I don’t agree with the OP at all.

  13. #13 Why dont they just automate SCO so that the underbidder automatically wins it as well, that way Ebay get more sales, the seller sells more.

  14. @ # 17

    That isn’t a bad idea. I was originally going to post a simple algorithm for it but I think I’m going to hold on to it.

  15. # 18 Rather than opting out of receiving SCO buyers could opt in , then they would know that they could win. They will not know that they would definetly win because they would not know whether the seller was going to do SCo
    The seller now can automate SCO, it should be fairly simple to add a “quantity available” to this.


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