Sunday, April 10, 2011

Etsy Deluge, the Etsy privacy issue

Etsy Deluge
© 2011
watercolor, ink and a tad of colored pencil
painted in response to Etsy's latest buyer privacy issues
(note: only Etsians will get what this piece is about. But, to enlighten those not privvy to the joke, it has to do with Etsy's front page, which for years focused on owls, cowls, mustaches and certain kinds of rain clouds-- to the point of radically over-doing it, at least to many who sell on the site). 
For the moment, if you want this piece, it is available as an original 11" x 14" watercolor through this link
or as a 5" x 7" print through this link from my Artfire on-line store. Other purchasing opportunities may avail themselves at some point, so check back for the edit on this page.

Anyway, the privacy debacle started out in the Penny Arcade forums where a buyer's name came up in a google search with the artisan dildo she bought on Etsy. Yup, all out there for her grandmother, co-workers and the world to see! It was placed in the google search under her name on the first page of the search, right after her on-line job resumes. Why? Because Etsy changed their privacy policy to make real names of buyers come up in searches. The only way for buyers to change their privacy settings was to log onto the site and change them manually.

Etsy claims to have e-mailed everyone about the change, but the e-mail was buried in a newsletter about how to take great catalog worthy product photography. Also, many buyers only came to the site once to buy or discontinued their e-mail addresses, so many were not notified. I have strong spam filters on my web-mail address (if I didn't, I would get thousands of spam messages a day-- as it is, I get anywhere from 700 to 1,000 now). So, I never got the e-mail either.

From there, Ars Technica took up the story. In the Ars Technica comments section after the article, there was a "battle royal" going on in the forums between Etsy's CEO, Rob Kalin (along with some of his Etsy staffers) and the sellers and buyers of Etsy. What angered sellers and buyers most was that they had been complaining in the Etsy forums about the "opt out" (of having your name shown in searches unless you opted out)-- arguing that it should only be an "opt in" situation. Every forum that was brought up about the situation was immediately closed and some of the sellers were also "muted", i.e. not allowed to post in the forums any longer.

From the Ars Technica article, it went viral. The list was substantial in the end (click on each name to see each site's article on the matter): MSNBC, Washington Post, Consumerist, Huffington Post, Yahoo, BoingBoing, Forbes, Digital Trends, Help Net Security, NY Magazine, NY Convergence, Auctionbytes, The Business Insider, Gizmodo, The Village Voice, The Mary Sue, BuzzFeed, About, Reputation, Salon, Now Public and Geek Sugar.
This was preceeded with lots of other bad press including the rape card fiasco and the Glamour fiasco. Click on these preceeding links if you want to understand what it is about.

I was personally effected by the rape card fiasco. Two women customers, who saw the unflattering story break on CNN, came into a brick and mortar gallery where I was working and wanted me to sign the petition to force Etsy to take the rape cards down from its site. And then they looked at me and asked why I would want to sell on a site like that, not realizing that Etsy is not all about dildos, radical art and Regretsy type items. I do think the outside world mainly regards Etsy as an off-the-wall kind of marketplace filled to its brim primarily with Regretsy items and Keep it Weird items when actually the opposite is true: there are more artists making exceptionally unweird items than weird ones, they just never get much press.

It's not getting much better over at The recent article in Inc Magazine portrays Etsy as a giant flea market and its CEO as crazy:

Inc Magazine, April 2011:
“Today, Kalin is socially awkward, reticent and given to eccentricities which seem downright crazy.”

Kalin speaks in the article too: (Inc Magazine, April 2011):
"I speak to people in the business world and the technology world, but I don't admire them", he says, pointing an 8-inch combat knife at me for emphasis.

There's more, but I won't go further.

I know a lot of sellers are having a difficult time selling, and many blame the latest happenings (if they are allowed to speak out-- you mostly have to look off of the Etsy site to find out how sellers are really taking it all).

Needless to say, I don't really fit in (in terms of what they like to promote). If I made owls, cowls, mustaches and certain kinds of watercolors and Regretsy types of items, I would. But I don't (normally!). I'm trying to figure out what to do about my own shop on Etsy and in the meantime primarily focusing on my Artfire shop and the brick and mortar gallery scene in my area, which is sober in comparison. I'm not recommending or actively advertising Etsy at all to my brick and mortar customers primarily because of the privacy issues. All I need is my brick and mortar customers coming into the store with "Why didn't you tell us that our names would be splashed all over google and that our e-mail boxes would be bombarded by spam!"

I still have a few things listed at Etsy. If you love Etsy, then make sure your privacy settings are the way you want them!

Here is a close-up of the owl's face, complete with mustache:
edited to add: more on this subject through this link.



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