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UA and Privacy Changes -- Some Q&A

Posted by Laura on May 23, 2007 at 01:59 PM in General | Permalink

Laura_post As many of you now know, eBay is making some changes to our Privacy and User Agreements.

Earlier this week, Scott Shipman -- an old-timer here at eBay, and one of our top privacy lawyers -- sent an electronic letter to all registered members, notifying them of the changes.  This letter -- which I learned will take an incredible three weeks to reach the entire Community due to our very large customer-base -- has prompted a number of questions from the Community. 

Privacy and security are important issues for all of us, and we thought it was important to hear from our legal team about the concerns our members have expressed.  Scott was more than willing to share more detail about the changes, and what they mean -- and don't mean -- for our members. 

First, for those of you who may not have received the message yet, here is what it says:

Dear (eBay member User Id),

I'm writing to let you know that the eBay User Agreement and eBay Privacy Policy have been updated, effective immediately for users registering as of May 16, 2007, and on July 9, 2007, for current users.

The rules and dispute resolution policies you originally agreed to in the User Agreement have not changed in any substantive way. We've made some changes to this agreement to make sure our legal documents are consistent with the ways our sites and services are evolving and to better meet the needs of our user community. You'll notice some changes to our "Content License" and "Abusing eBay" sections to that effect.

The new Privacy Policy, like the old one, outlines the broad categories of information we collect from you, how we use this information, and what your options are with respect to the information we collect. You'll notice a few changes to the policy, which we've made to cover new programs and site safety projects we're putting in place.

* Combating Fraud. We're increasing our efforts to combat fraud on the site with a variety of programs. For example, we've made some changes that allow us to address "Ask a Question" and "My Messages" spam and other malicious activities using our message systems. And we're making sure our disclosures about cooperating with law enforcement allow us to respond to increasingly sophisticated fraudsters and criminals.

* Streamlining Services. We've heard your comments about how many steps it takes to complete a transaction or get customer support where multiple eBay companies are involved. So we've made some changes that will allow our Customer Support team to help you with questions that span our companies. And we're streamlining your use of the services provided by members of the eBay corporate family, so your experience across the eBay Inc. platform will be as seamless as we can make it. Some of our new programs also mean you'll see eBay services and content in a lot of places (not just on the site), so we've made some changes to reflect that.

* Customizing Your eBay Experience. We're rolling out programs and working with partners that help make our sites and services, and some of the ads you see on the web, more relevant and useful to you. Naturally, because we're a transparent community, we'll identify the new ads served with this program and provide you with choices about them. Beginning in July, we'll make a new preference available in My eBay--named AdChoice--that lets you tell us whether you want us to use the information we have about you to customize the ads you see. You'll be able to sign in and change your advertising preferences in My eBay at any time. You'll also notice links on the ads we serve this way, so you'll know an ad is served with the new program and be able to set your preferences right from the ad.

We hope you'll agree that these changes will make the eBay sites and services work better for you. If you accept the new User Agreement and Privacy Policy, you don't need to take any action. If you do not wish to accept the new User Agreement or Privacy Policy, please refer to our Help pages for instructions on how to close your account.

Thank you for using eBay and we look forward to many more successful transactions!


Scott Shipman
Senior Counsel, Global Privacy Practices
eBay Inc.

Here are some of the most common questions we've seen from members across the community forums and in email, along with Scott's answers:


Member Question: Why does the notice tell me to close my account?

Shipman_3Scott: We certainly do not want you to close your account!  Actually, this is standard legal language we have used in the past. In fairness to you, we need to make sure you know about these changes and agree to them when you continue using the site.  If you continue to keep an account active after the effective date (July 9 for existing users), that will be acceptance of the new terms -- that’s what the language about accepting the changes was designed to address.  If you do not agree to these new terms, your way of indicating that you disagree is to close your account. 


We’ve made the changes to our policies so that we can provide some new and exciting programs that will help make eBay better, safer and easier to use. We always provide the eBay services subject to our user agreement and privacy policy. Keep in mind, though, that some of the policy changes tell you about the new preference we’re making available. You don’t need to close your account if you don’t want to participate; you can just change your preference in My eBay!


Member Question: What is AdChoice? Am I going to get a lot of ads or spam?

Scott: Privacy is all about providing you choices with the processing of your personal information. AdChoice allows you to choose whether or not you want ads customized to your interests. I’m aware that some people are not all that excited about the on-site ads. Whether there are ads on the site or not is outside my domain, but I can help by making them more relevant to you.


I think you’ll appreciate the new, more relevant ads when they start to appear on the site. But if you don’t want them customized, there will be a preference available where you can tell us so (without closing your account!). If you opt out or not, you’ll see the same amount of ads, in the same places (on the site or eBay ads on other sites) where you see them now, but we won’t customize them to your interests if you tell us not to. It’s not about spam, or bombarding you with ads, it’s about making the content we provide, including advertising, more interesting and relevant to all our users, and thus making the site better for everyone.


Member Question: Does AdChoice mean you’re sharing my personal information with other companies?

Scott: We'll be working with our partners who provide advertising on the site, but we won’t share your personally identifiable information (like contact or financial information) with those partners. We’ll send them only some anonymous data that helps them select which ads to show.


Member Question: Why did you change the Content License?

Scott: We did not change the content license. In fact, the content license has not changed materially since it was originally drafted in 1998.


We received a number of comments from members suggesting that they were confused by the parenthetical example that followed the content license language. (The parenthetical example did not even exist in earlier versions of the content license). 


So, in this latest revision, we removed the language to reduce confusion and to clarify that, as eBay grows and develops, we may broadly use site content, including user content, to enhance and improve our business and the website user experience. Importantly, the content license does not limit your ownership of your content. You do not give up your ownership rights, and you remain free to use and commercialize your content however you choose. (For example, you may choose to publish and sell a book containing all of the reviews you have posted on eBay). At the same time, when you post content on eBay, you give eBay a license to use that content through a variety of means to benefit you, the eBay community, and eBay's business.  For example, this license allows us to display listings and drive traffic to the site to increase the salability of items.


Here is a redline of this section showing the change to the prior content license, so you can see the parenthetical language which we removed:


When you give us content, you grant us a non-exclusive, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, sublicensable (through multiple tiers) right to exercise the copyright, publicity, and database rights (but no other rights) you have in the content, in any media known now or in the future. (We need these rights to host and display your content.)


Member Question: Does the new Content License mean that you can sell my personal information to other companies?


Scott: No. Our privacy policy continues to apply to the personal information we have. We’ve made a promise not to sell or rent your personal information to third parties for their own marketing purposes without your consent, and this new content license doesn’t change that.




Thanks for these answers, Scott --  And readers, if you have more questions or other topics, let us know by emailing

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