eBay angers users with policy change

Online auction site EBay comes under fire for a policy decision it made to rectify a bug in the opt-in/opt-out user preferences portion of its site.

Popular internet auction website eBay has always used the "yes" default when asking customers whether they would like email updates of its privacy policy, new features, user surveys and marketing messages.

However, last October the company discovered the "yes" default had not been loaded, in many cases since April. About 6 million users registered at the site during the April to October period.

To rectify the error, eBay decided to send out an email to all affected users letting them know their preference would be reset to "yes." In addition, users would have 15 days to change the preference back to "no" if that's what they preferred.

In the email, eBay offered users a URL so they could get to the preference page with a single click to change their preference to "no," says Kevin Pursglove, director of communications for the company.

"We ran our proposal [on how to rectify the problem] past representatives of Truste [a user privacy organisation]," Pursglove says. "They evaluated our proposal and told us they were comfortable with it as presented to them."

Still, many users were angered by the change to their preferences, according to published reports.

So far email messages have gone out to 600,000 of the 6 million affected users. eBay expects the process to continue for the next few weeks and hopes to wrap it up in February.

Overall, 92% to 93% of eBay users have decided to opt in for email messages from the company. Currently, about 4% to 5% of those users contacted have returned to the site to change their preferences back to "no," Pursglove says.

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