Under the old policy, eBay would share user information only with law enforcement officials or in the case of disputes over intellectual property, according to eBay spokesman Kevin Pursglove. That has now been changed to allow the company to share user information with other users who are involved in legal action.
Changing the policy so eBay can share user information with other users drew the ire of Jason Catlett, president of Junkbusters, who rejected the company's interpretation of its own policy.
Catlett said the policy never spells out the specific instances in which it will share user information with other users, and he called on eBay to detail specific conditions in which it will share the information.
Pursglove acknowledged that the company has been criticised for adding users to the list of people who can access information, but he said eBay is sticking with the decision. Although some privacy advocates have said the move could allow marketers to gain access to user information by pretending to be other users, Pursglove disagreed. He said the only time anyone can gain access to information is if there is a legal need.
As for the issue that first focused attention on eBay's privacy policies last February - the decision to post simplified interpretations of the policy on eBay's Web site - Catlett and fellow privacy advocate Ari Schwartz, associate director of the Centre for Democracy and Technology, disagreed on whether that was a step forward or back.
Pursglove said today that eBay ultimately agreed and changed the language to read as follows:
Pursglove said that the new language would be posted on eBay's site today, with the new policy taking effect from 19 April. He added that the company never had any intention of sticking with the initial language without first hearing the opinion of privacy advocates.
"The whole idea is to solicit feedback," Pursglove said.
"This is a rare case where the policy became somewhat less bad," Catlett added.