eBay Launches New Initiative To Hide Bidder IDs

Two months ago eBay launched a new initiative on eBay Motors, eBay UK and eBay Australia called Safeguarding Member IDs known around eBay as SMI.

What SMI does is hide the bidder’s ID from other bidders who view an auction –but not from the seller.  The purpose of SMI is to reduce unwanted SPAM and fake Second Chance Offers. After SMI goes into effect, when you view an auction listing instead of seeing a bidders ID such as insomniac_bidder4U you will see the bidders listed at bidder 1, bidder 2 and so on.

Rob Chesnut, Senior Vice President, eBay Global Trust & Safety made the announcement on the eBay Announcement Board today. His comments included the following:

“SMI adds a new layer of privacy by replacing specific User IDs with aliases (bidder 1, bidder 2, bidder 3, etc.). To ensure buyers continue to feel trust in the bidding process, SMI also provides an updated Bid History page with aggregate information about the bidders involved in a given listing, as well as their other recent activity with the listing’s seller.

As a result eBay.com and eBay.ca will be launching SMI later this week. SMI will impact listings on eBay.com that start at or reach a bid level of $200 or greater. On eBay Canada, it will impact listings above the C$220 level. Please read our Safeguarding Member IDs Frequently Asked Questions for more information. “

SMI has raised some concerns among members.  One of them is the fear that hiding bidder IDs will lead to more shill bidding.  eBay replies to this by claiming to have a sophisticated shill bidding detection system.  Although they do, it is not foolproof.  I often see activity that looks like shill bidding.  Most recently it was from a seller in BC Canada who was selling unauthorized copies of my materials.  When I looked at his feedback it was from bidder IDs with similar names and all located in nearby Canada locations.

Collectors also don’t like this.  Some collectors are very competitive and like to know the other collectors they are bidding against.  These collectors tell me they really like to know when one of their competitors is bidding, but this will no longer be possible. As a seller of collectibles, I like it when two competitors go toe-to-toe as it usually increases my final value.

Although I applaud efforts to stop spam and fraud, the lack of bidder IDs removes some of the personality that makes eBay fun.  I sometimes wonder if eBay’s management understands the importance of the fun quotient to eBay buyers and sellers.

eBay’s other announcement today involved the ability to get search results by category.  This is a nice move and will help buyers refine their searches to make them more relative, however, it may slightly hurt sellers as items of similar interest, but from a different category, may not show up.  This could ultimately benefit eBay by incentivizing more sellers to use List in Two Categories which earns additional fees for eBay.

You can read the full text of both announcements at this link: http://www2.ebay.com/aw/marketing.shtml?ssPageName=f:f:US


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