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Etsy Reveals Users’ Real Names and Purchases [Update]

Well this is ill-advised: In one of those efforts to make something more “social” that does not really need to be more “social” at all, whimsical stuff-buying site Etsy has rolled out something called People Search, which a) allows people to search for other Etsy users by real name rather than purchase name, b) links these identifiers to purchase history, and c) automatically opted all users in without much warning. Considering that most Etsy customers (and presumably customers of most e-commerce sites) do not want their order histories shared, this is not a good thing.

A Penny Arcade forumer illustrates just how not good a thing it can be for Etsy customers:

Oh god. 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.

Update: Etsy has fortunately rolled back some of the changes, making purchase details private.

We take privacy very seriously. We work with TRUSTe and audit our privacy policies regularly, notifying all members via email any time a substantive change is made.

In the future, we may provide an option to share individual purchases publicly at the time of purchase. This will be completely opt-in and on a purchase-by-purchase basis.

We are deeply sorry for any confusion and will work hard to regain your trust.

This sounds like one of the most disastrous, privacy-destroying changes a site has implemented in a long while; the much-criticized Facebook privacy changes last spring were not nearly this bad.

Luckily, our sister site The Mary Sue has a guide to changing Etsy privacy settings.

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