*eBay, Yahoo Terminate Database Auction

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Fear of a privacy backlash has at least temporarily blocked the online auction of an offline direct mail list.


Auction sites Yahoo and eBay last week removed a posting of 200,000 house file names of active U.S. investors by financial direct mail marketing firm Market Logistics Group Inc., Winter Park, FL, citing privacy concerns and policy violations.


Sale of this list offline would not be unusual. The file consists of names and telephone numbers of consumers interested in investment opportunities. The move by Market Logistics was an attempt to sell names with limited list rental potential and raise operating capital, said president Michael Dambro.


"Everything I'm doing is according to the standards of the direct marketing industry," he said, adding that every six months, he performs standard direct marketing industry list-hygiene functions such as verifying telephone numbers and addresses.


There is no privacy issue at hand, Dambro said. His company has a disclosure statement saying information may be shared with third parties that provide investment information or services, or related products. Potential buyers of the file must fall into one of those categories, he said.


"It sounds like [Dambro] is doing everything by the book and maintaining the integrity of the list by adhering to industry standards. He is merely doing what other people in the list industry do when they put a list up for sale," said Maureen Grady, sales executive for list management at direct mail list firm Mokrynski & Associates Inc., Hackensack, NJ. "He's just using the latest technology to do it."


The database auction was originally posted July 31 on the Yahoo auction site. By the next afternoon, Yahoo had removed the auction and informed Dambro that it was due to a violation of Yahoo's terms of service and privacy issues, but would not elaborate.


Last week, a Yahoo spokeswoman had left a voice mail message verifying that Yahoo terminated the auction and that it will stick by the decision. She was not immediately reachable.


As a result of Yahoo's decision, Dambro placed his database on eBay on Aug. 1 after searching fruitlessly for a telephone number to ask eBay if his auction would be allowed.


"Based on the terms of service posted on eBay's site, I am not in violation of any of its policies, explicit or implied," Dambro said. "I'm certainly not violating any laws."


eBay contacted him two days later with an e-mail stating that his auction was removed because his item description included direct contact information, which is viewed as an attempt to circumvent eBay's fees, according to Dambro.


An eBay spokeswoman gave an alternate reason for disallowing the listing.


"We will be removing this listing. It is a violation of our listing practices; we do not allow bulk mailing lists on our site for sale," said a spokeswoman at eBay.


As of Friday, eBay had not notified Dambro of this policy violation. He plans to list his database again without the contact information and wait for a response from eBay.
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