EBay Confident Privacy Policy Change Is Fine

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EBay announced changes to its privacy policy this week, prompting privacy group Junkbusters to send an open letter to Howard Beales, director of the bureau of consumer protection at the Federal Trade Commission, criticizing a provision of the online auction site's privacy policy.

The provision is titled Conflict of Terms and states, "If there is a conflict between the terms and conditions in this privacy policy and other privacy representations that may appear on our site (e.g. privacy tools, easy to read summaries, charts and P3P statements), you agree that the terms and conditions of this privacy policy shall control."

According to eBay, the provision is an attempt to clarify, not mislead.

"What we want out users to know is, if there appears to be any confusion or contradiction between the user agreement or the privacy policy and any other reference on the site itself always refer to the user agreement or the privacy policy," said Kevin Pursglove, spokesman at eBay, San Jose, CA.

Still, Junkbusters looks toward the worst case scenario.

"If companies can disclaim all other representations besides the fine print of their privacy policies, then consumer protection is headed for a premature death," said Jason Catlett, president of Junkbusters Corp., Green Brook, NJ.

Even so, Catlett admitted that he had not actually found any contradictions within the eBay Web site.

Despite that a similar complaint against Amazon.com in December 2000 did not yield the desired result, Catlett is optimistic that the FTC will act this time.

Pursglove, however, said that including such summaries on the eBay site was done at the urging of the FTC in the first place. EBay is fairly confident that the FTC will find no wrongdoing on its part.


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