EFF Says Shop Safe Will Harm Consumers Not Protect Them

Have you heard of the SHOP SAFE Act? It’s a Bill before Congress designed to protect you from the online sale of harmful counterfeit products, like toys that break down and present a health hazard.

While this sounds like a noble goal, America’s leading non-profit privacy advocate, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has slammed the Bill as good in theory but fairly ridiculous in practice, especially for privacy.

Where the EFF sees privacy risk potential for you as a consumer is in the requirement to have ecommerce platforms verify the identity, address and contact information of any third party seller who uses their services. This means you as a seller of any good online including used goods (think running a garage sale or selling your old bike) would have to send your driver’s license or other government ID to the platform before making a listing, which unnecessarily exposes your personal information to the platform. And given the broad nature of the Bill, the selling platform in this case could be anything from eBay, Amazon, Facebook and Craigslist to Gmail and other email providers if you decide to make the sale via email (e.g. if you sell your used bike to a colleague using email). 

“Imagine if you had to provide a copy of your driver’s license to Craigslist just to advertise your garage sale or sell a used bike. As over the top as that seems, it’s even worse when you think about how this would apply to services like Gmail or Facebook. Should you really have to provide ID to open an email account, just in case you sell something using it? Requirements like this threaten not only competition but user privacy, too,” the EFF writes.

If the SHOP SAFE ACT—which stands for Stopping Harmful Offers on Platforms by Screening Against Fakes in E-Commerce (SHOP SAFE) Act—passes, online marketplaces could be held liable for injury and damages suffered from dodgy products. But the way around being held liable is if the third party seller can be served a lawsuit in the United States or the platform meets 10 requirements before the counterfeit item is sold. 

The first of the 10 requirements is that the platform has “verified the identity, place of business, and contact information of third-party seller against governmental and other reliable sources.” This means the platform like Craigslist or Facebook has checked all your personal details. Another requirement is that the platform has “conspicuously displayed the seller’s place of business, contact information, and identity along with manufacture location and shipping origin of the goods.” You can see the privacy risks to someone just wanting to offload some old books and clothes.

The Bill aims to offer ecommerce platforms incentives for more thoroughly checking third party sellers and hold those platforms liable for allowing dangerous counterfeits to be sold. But while the EFF says protecting the consumer from dangerous products is a noble goal, it’s a case of hurting the consumer with a law that’s meant to help them. 

Some commentators say the SHOP SAFE Act has little chance of passing into law unless the increase in cybercrime and counterfeit products seen during the pandemic prompts lawmakers to tighten the screws. 

From our perspective, this Bill is yet another challenge in the ongoing battle to protect your online privacy, but we can offer some protection through MySudo. Sure, there would be no way around having to submit a verifiable name and address via government ID, but using a MySudo phone number and email address instead of your private ones when you contact the ecommerce platform at least limits the amount of personal information you expose. Check out MySudo to see how you could use it if the SHOP SAFE Act passes into law.

Find out more about SHOP SAFE Act here and here.

Photo By Natee Photo

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