eBay changes some user notification preferences

By Jessica Davis, InfoWorld |  Business

ONLINE AUCTION SITE eBay this week came under fire for a policy decision it made to rectify a bug in the opt-in/opt-out user preferences portion of its site.

eBay has always used the "yes" default when asking customers whether they would like e-mail updates of its privacy policy, new features, user surveys, and marketing messages.

Last October, the company discovered that 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 e-mail to all affected users letting them know that 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 e-mail, eBay offered users a URL so they could get to the preference page with a single click to change their preference to "no," said Kevin Pursglove, director of communications for the San Jose, Calif.-based company.

"We ran our proposal [on how to rectify the problem] past representatives of Truste [a user privacy organization]," Pursglove said. "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 e-mail 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 percent of eBay users have decided to opt in for e-mail messages from the company. Currently, about 4 percent to 5 percent of those users contacted have returned to the site to change their preferences back to "no," Pursglove said.

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