Yesterday we reported Etsy irritated many of its users when it made much of their information public without warning.
Today, a post on the Etsy blog explained and apologized for the move. Here’s their full explanation:
Yesterday and today there have been a handful of articles reporting that purchases on Etsy are public. The articles have led to concerns by members of our community.
We want to apologise. We also want to set the record straight about how our product works and about changes we made today in response to your feedback.
Are my purchases on Etsy public?
No. As of right now, all your purchases on Etsy are private.
Were there changes to Etsy that made my purchases public?
No. 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. It’s been this way since October.
If nothing has recently changed, what’s going on?
There is a lot of misinformation being spread right now. One blog post even has the outlandish title “Etsy Makes All Of Its Users’ Activity Public.” This is simply untrue. On Etsy, private conversations, financial information, billing data — all are now and have always been strictly private.
There was an article published on ArsTechnica that made clear how direct the connection was between using your real name on Etsy, buying an item and receiving public feedback for that item. The reaction to this article has made us realise that we need to change the way our Feedback system works, and this is what we’ve already done today.
Why make any changes to the Feedback system?
The article and response highlighted for us how we’ve outgrown our current Feedback system. It dates back to a time when payment for items was sent after completing the checkout process on Etsy. This meant that sellers needed to know how trustworthy their buyer was. We now require payment prior to completing checkout, so this issue has basically gone away.
We believe that markets are conversations. We want people to discuss what they purchase, although this will often mean discussing it in private. As such, we have removed the link from a piece of feedback (which is public) to the item that was purchased (which is now private).
What is Etsy’s view on privacy?
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.
We have been working quickly to make changes based on your input and opinions. We will continue to work on this, for what’s really needed is a rethinking of our entire Feedback system. In the meantime, all purchases are private, and feedback doesn’t link to items.
If you have any more questions or concerns, please email [email protected] or convo us directly on Etsy.