eBay's information sharing policy prompts privacy concerns

The online marketplace eBay is raising concern due to its practice of giving out sellers' personal information to bidders.

An investigation by ABC's Good Morning America (GMA) found that any bidder on an item can request and receive, in a matter of seconds, a seller's full name, city, state and phone number.

GMA placed bids of just one dollar on a handful of auctions and completed a simple request on eBay's website, asking for seller contact information.

According to eBay's terms and conditions document, which all sellers agree to, the company is allowed to do this.

eBay points out the information is meant to help communication between sellers and buyers.

Still, many sellers don't realize that.

And while the company doesn't release seller's addresses, GMA used one seller's name, phone number and city, which the eBay does provide, to find her address online in less than one minute.

"That doesn't feel very good," said the seller, Anita. "I have children, I have a family here and I'm doing this to make extra money for my family."

eBay notified Anita after they gave out her information, at the same time also providing her with GMA's information.

But cyber security expert Adam Levin says a scammer or thief could use fake information in their profile to try to get your information.

"A process like this is an enabler for bad guys, even though it wasn't designed to be," he said.

GMA reached out to eBay.

The company declined an on-camera interview, but released a statement saying, in part, "of the trillions of transactions... we're unaware of any case where this has been used maliciously."

However, the statement continued, "due to the low usage of this functionality, we'll soon be removing that feature."
Copyright © 2021 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.