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Etsy Reveals Users’ Real Names and Purchases: Here’s How to Opt Out [UPDATE]

BAD IDEAS FROM SMART PEOPLE

Hey, do you have an Etsy account? Have you ever ordered anything with it? Have you ever ordered any artisan dildoes? If so, you might want to revisit your account privacy settings, because what you bought might be showing up in Google search results for your real name.

Last week Etsy rolled out a feature called People Search, presumably in an effort to give the e-commerce site (with a focus on the vintage and the handmade) a more social network-like place. The feature allows people to search by real name in addition to username, and links both of those identifiers to purchase history. According to Ars Technica, “The goal is to allow users to connect to each other and create “Circles,” which then allow users to see which products their friends have favorited or purchased on Etsy.”

Unfortunately, this change went unannounced (except to sellers) and, in a classic no-no familiar to any Facebook user, Etsy automatically opted all of its current users into the program. And once all that searchable information was available for the culling, of course it wound up appearing in Google search results.

“Oh god.” wrote Privacy Concerned Reader,

I was looking for an example to give to a reporter that asked me for one, and I just found a woman who’s Etsy profile comes up on Google as the 5th link. I was expecting 6 or 7 pages down, but it’s on the very first page, right after her online resumes (four of ‘em – so I guess she’s looking for work and this cannot be helping). She signed up a year ago, under the old privacy policy, and hasn’t logged in since 2010.

And now I know what dildo she uses. Right down to the curvature and coloring.

Another forum goer found it was possible to start with an item, see who was interested in it, and eventually make your way to their Facebook page.

So, if you do have an Etsy account, here’s how to opt out of People Search (from Etsy Bitch):

Log in to Etsy…

  1. Click “Settings” on the left top sidebar
  2. Choose the “Privacy” tab
  3. You have three decisions to make (who can see your favorites, who can see your purchases, and can people search for your email). Be sure to click the update button on the bottom.
  • To change your ‘real name’ on file, click “Profile” in the left sidebar while logged in to your account.

Talk about a Regretsy, amirite?

UPDATE: Etsy has since altered their changes. A user’s purchase are now once again private and not indexable by search engines. They also posted a response to the controversy on their blog, the most salient part is perhaps this:

The issue here is our Feedback system, which has not changed in six years. We do not directly publish your purchases on Etsy. However, when a seller leaves feedback for an item you bought, or you leave feedback for an item you purchased, we would link to the item. Our Feedback system has always worked this way; our original thinking was that it’s important to know more about the transaction, to better establish trust in the marketplace.

We added the option to enter your real name when registering. Right next to this text field, it says: “Your full name will appear on your public profile. This is optional.” Some people enter their name, some don’t. As of right now, 25% of people (including us) have entered their real name.

It is the confluence of these two things that led us to this position: if you enter your real name, purchase an item, and the seller leaves feedback for this item, this purchase will be publicly visible via our Feedback system. Search engines index our site, which means this data can turn up there, too.

You can read the whole post at their blog.

(via Ars Technica.)

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