Seems that Facfebook gets all the press when it comes to online privacy. But it’s time to put in a bad word for Etsy, too. Now, maybe you don’t hang out at Etsy, which is, after all, an arts & crafts bazaar that may be of limited interest to the techies and political types hereabouts.
But it appears that Etsy might be interested in you, even if you’ve never heard of it.
This week, Etsy members are all getting emails that say (as if speaking to extraordinarily stupid kindergarteners): “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.”
In other words, if you’re in the address book of somebody who has an account at Etsy, they’ll soon be encouraged to upload your name, your address, and whatever other personal data about you they possess in the address book to Etsy. Without your consent. Without even your knowledge.
Whether you receive Etsy spam or not appears to be up to the discretion of the moron who uploaded your information. And once you’ve received Etsy spam at a given email address, you’re graciously “allowed” to opt out of getting any more. But nevertheless, the real bad deed is already done. Etsy will have acquired personal data on (potentially millions of) people who don’t even know they’re being data-mined. And despite all assurances, there’s no telling what Etsy will do with that information. There’s no assurance they’ll safeguard it (and why should they). There’s no telling the ways that the data could be linked with other data to create yet another profile of you and your connections and your activities.
We utilize a contact-importer feature to help you identify people from your email address books who are current members of Etsy and invite any other contact to join Etsy. You may connect directly with your email service provider and import your contacts to Etsy. When you add contacts to your Etsy circle, they will automatically receive an email notification. When you invite contacts to join Etsy, you may preview the email invitation before Etsy generates and sends it. Recipients of invitations may opt out of receiving future invitations via a convenient link located in the invitation email. If you do not want your contacts to be able to find your Etsy username through your email address, you may opt out through your account privacy settings.
Etsy has always been about networking. I have a very small Etsy jewelry store that’s never done well, partly because of timing (I got into jewelry-making just as it peaked and right before the crash of 2008) and partly because I’ve never haunted the Etsy forums, participated in Etsy teams, or created Etsy “circles” — whatever they might be.
But the idea that it’s “sad” that “we” can’t find our friends on Etsy is — as some of the 4,000 messages of protest have pointed out — just plain silly. The thing that’s hard to find is the items you’re looking for. Etsy has a very poor search engine, and one that is so biased toward the newest listings that the only way you can ensure your items will be found is to keep “churning” listings. Which costs money every time you do it.
I’m really impressed with the response of Etsy members. For “arty types” the writers of those protests show a lot of concern for privacy and a lot more regard for customers than Etsy itself is displaying. I’m not impressed at all with Etsy’s response, which runs from nil to a few more bland bits of kindergarten talk.
I was thinking about closing my Etsy store, anyhow. Only a few great buyers have kept it alive since the crash. (Thank you. 🙂 )When my last items are sold or when the listings expire I’ll close the shop but still create jewelry on commission or for my own enjoyment.
The irony is that, should you want to buy any of that jewelry, you won’t be placing yourself in any greater danger from hackers, spammers, and data-miners than you already are. In fact, if you become a member of Etsy or already are one, you’ll soon be given the option not to let your friends “find” you via their uploaded address books. If you aren’t a member of Etsy, you stand an even greater chance of getting Etsy spam.
But all of us, no matter who we are, might never know which of our “friends” have turned us over to commercial marketers and data miners.
Some of the thousands of Etsy members raging against this new “feature” have questioned whether it’s even legal. In some countries, it may not be. In no country is this a senisble or ethical way to treat people. And on the surface, it appears sneakier than any datamining stunt Facebook has ever pulled.
Somebody — I wish I could remember who — recently said something very sharp. When it comes to dealing with social networking companies — or social networking wannabes like Etsy which have forgotten they’re marketplaces in which participants pay commissions to list and sell tangible goods — we are the product being bought and sold. And increasingly, it seems as if we’re entitled to about as much consideration as a marketer might give to a pair of sox or a package of toilet paper.