EBay Disclosed Sellers' Personal Information to Bidders, Will Change Practice

EBay shares sellers’ information with bidders.

ByABC News
September 4, 2015, 8:15 AM

— -- EBay is the online marketplace for 25 million sellers, but did you know that when you signed up you gave the company permission to disclose your personal information to your bidders?

“GMA” Investigates has found that any bidder on an item can request – and receive in a matter of seconds – a seller’s full name, city and state of residence and phone number.

So just how easy is it?

“GMA” placed bids of $1 each on a handful of auctions and then completed a simple request on eBay’s website in which we asked for seller contact information.

The request revealed the seller’s information.

One of the people whose information we received was an eBay seller named Anita. We are not revealing her last name.

Asked whether she knew the company could reveal her information, she replied: “No, I did not. I thought they protected your information.”

Under eBay’s “Terms and Conditions,” the company says it can share the information and that it’s meant to facilitate communication between sellers and buyers.

While eBay doesn’t release sellers' addresses, using Anita’s name, phone number and city, “GMA” was able to find her address online in under a minute.

“That doesn’t feel very good,” said Anita, who had listed a gold bracelet for sale. “I have children, I have a family here and I’m doing this to make extra money for my family.”

EBay notified Anita after giving out her information, and at the same time also providing her with our information, but cybersecurity expert Adam Levin says scammers or thieves could use fake information in their profiles to try to get a seller’s information.

“A process like this is an enabler for bad guys even though it wasn’t designed to be,” said Levin, who is the author of the upcoming book “Swiped.”

EBay declined an on-camera interview with ABC News, but the company told “GMA” in a statement that, of “trillions of transactions,” it was unaware of any case where the information was used maliciously.

But it added that the policy would change, writing: “Due to the low usage of this functionality, as well as enhancements to other forms of communication, we’ll soon be removing that feature for bidders and sellers engaged in an active auction.”