Etsy People Search is a Privacy Failure: Public By Default
Online crafts marketplace Etsy introduced a "feature" called People Search, which means that your profile, purchas feedback history is public by default. Users are furious, which is understandable. It is difficult to imagine why users would want their real names public and indexable (i.e. findable on Google). Basically, Etsy just published the real names and purchase histories of all its buyers. This is a major screw-up for Etsy.
Etsy is a marketplace, and not a true social networking site, despite whatever budding intentions it may have. Exposing users' real names and purchase history is useless at best, and damaging to users at worst: some vendors sell items like cosplay gear, which don't enjoy mainstream acceptance, as well as products like sex toys and gay literature, which buyers want to keep hidden from the general public at all costs.
Your Etsy Interactions Are Now Public
Buyers don't want a Google or Bing search of their name to show that they're buying and favoriting dildos, and vendors know that some of their goods simply will not sell if their buyers aren't guaranteed some degree of protection from global public scrutiny.
Oh, and Etsy enjoys high pagerank, which means that your purchase of that anime cat outfit could easily outrank your own website in a Google search of your name. You can go into your privacy settings and flip yourself back to anonymous, but Google and Bing probably already indexed the changes.
No Warning to Users
Etsy CEO Rob Kalin responded to an Ars Technica story about the issue, but betrays a strange lack of knowlege of how Etsy actually works. Hint: Sellers give feedback, too, which means a point of name reference that the buyer cannot control... and Etsy just made this public.
Kalin also said that the company sent an email to its users alerting them of the change. That's actually not true. No email arrived in my inbox or junk folder. Every other Etsy user commenting on the issue seems to have had the same experience. To be honest, I don't believe that Etsy really sent an email at all.
Besides, a sea change like this requires more proactive user engagement than a forum post.
Kalin later claims to "take this stuff very, very seriously", but clearly that is not the case. The writing is on the admin-panel wall. He should consider tattooing the word "opt-in" on his forehead backwards, as he just doesn't seem to be getting the message.
It's hard to imagine the thinking behind Etsy's move: it's as if they haven't heard of a company called Facebook. Etsy's users are equally perplexed and angry, and have let Etsy know... to the tune of 120 pages of almost-entirely-negative feedback. Kalin's attempt at damage control seems to be having the opposite effect.
Again, why would someone want to search through all Etsy members? How is that supposed to be useful? Come on, Etsy folks-- what was going through your heads?