The breaking story today in the social world is the development at Etsy which has led to all buyers’ personal details and purchases being able to be searched by anyone. Whatever they have bought, and whenever they bought it.

The theory behind the changes appears to be that people shop based on the recommendations of their ‘circle’ of friends. It’s all about making shopping ‘social’, but the debate has to be do you want every purchase you make through a website showing up on Google under your name? Along with your email address, real name and possibly even your Facebook link?

If you ask on Facebook or Twitter which make of washing machine your followers or friends would recommend, that is your choice to reveal that you are planning to buy a washing machine. Or a hand-embroidered pink leotard to wear on your work at home days. Or whatever you plan to buy.

Purchases that you make normally are private unless you CHOOSE to review a product, ask your friends about it, or boast about the great deal you have just managed.

Etsy have just turned that privacy on its head with its PeopleSearch facility, by opting in all registered users to the new search system and opening up the database to the search engine spiders. You can opt out, but a new user should not need to trawl forums and consumer-run Etsy help sites to find out to opt out.

Whether or not this is permissible under strict UK privacy laws about data protection remains to be seen, but it is possible that Etsy may find themselves facing a fairly expensive lawsuit if they don’t rescind this functionality fairly quickly. Rather like Facebook did with Beacon.

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About the author:

A practising internet marketing consultant since 1996, Lindsey Annison helps companies improve their website marketing, online PR and information architecture. Lindsey is also a qualified adult education lecturer and author. As co-founder of the Access to Broadband Campaign, she has been instrumental in the provision of high-speed internet access to rural areas in the UK. Lindsey is also a past winner of Silicon.com's Outstanding Contribution to UK Technology