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What's with the name?

Allow us to explain.


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

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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  • Anonymous


    Upon further review, I don’t have my real name listed anywhere on there or link to my FB profile, and my email address is hidden, so I’m good. I( don’t care if other people can see my favourites – maybe they will buy them and I will be tempted no longer. The worst thing is that my friends may find out what I bought them for their birthdays.)

    But yes, it sucks for people making, er, very personal purchases – I know there are some pretty racy things on there, as well as individuals who have certain predilections who would suffer from having those revealed arbitrarily. At the very least, make it an opt-in process and send out a mass email. Like the forums on there need any more fuel for the fire.

  • Nicole

    They have addressed the issue on their blog it seems, if anyone is curious/interested:

  • O pleeeeze

    The issue was not feedback. That system was just fine till you dim bulbs made everyone-buyers and sellers-searchable on the site and let Google crawl the info!

    All in an effort to make Etsy a social site and not a shopping venue. This should bode really well for that IPO you clowns are lusting after.

  • Anonymous

    They claimed that they did send out a mass email back in January…except 1) a lot of people never got it, and 2) all it said was that they were making changes in order to make the new Circles feature more useful. Nothing was disclosed about what they were actually doing.

  • Anonymous

    Hmm, you’re right, they weren’t very clear in this email I received:

    Right now it’s hard to find people you know on Etsy, and that’s sad. Well, we’re changing that. We’re making it easy to connect your email address book to Etsy, so we can find people you know who are also members.

    (If you don’t want people you know to be able to find you, you will be able easily to opt out through your account privacy settings.)

    Guess I should actually read those notifications…But I still insist that it should be an opt-in process.

  • Trollmamma

    I couldn’t agree more. Etsy have demonstrated that they have as much common sense as any of the dildos they market. Such a shame that instead of focusing on what made the site a really great site, and far more popular and lucrative than many other merchandizing sites — many of which are now no more — they have to jump on the bandwagon of social networking. Why? For the love of all that is cute-looking and for sale on Etsy, why? How many social networks does the world actually need?

    Such a shame that they didn’t employ a little more braincell power, rather than thinking with their bank accounts. And even then, not thinking anything through very thoroughly. Leaving aside that seems-completely-natural-even-potentially-knee-jerk wish for privacy for anyone who buys an adult-oriented item, in a world where identity theft is a very real threat, privacy is a HUGE deal.



  • Rachel

    Trollmamma 9 hours ago in reply to O pleeeeze
    How many social networks does the world actually need?

    Social networks and social commerce aren’t quite the same thing. While I can’t presume to know Etsy’s long term goals, many e-commerce sites are moving towards social commerce because the research is showing that it works. HOWEVER, social commerce should NOT come at the expense of privacy. Safety and social commerce can co-exist peacefully.

    Shoply recently wrote a blog post addressing this issue, which can be read here:

  • Drewscrew04

    There is yet another privacy related issue emerging today (3.21.11). You can find the discussion here: