TradeMe ponders action over harvested e-mail addresses

Trade Me Ltd., one of New Zealand's longest serving auction sites, is considering legal action over the newest player in the market, Hamilton-based Done Deal.

The possible action follows following Done Deal's use of 12,000 e-mail addresses harvested off the TradeMe site.

"Prior to February our site was pretty open," says TradeMe director Sam Morgan. "We had e-mail addresses on the site for everyone to see. That had certain benefits ... but it also meant it could be crawled automatically and addresses harvested." This, he says, is what Done Deal - which set up in business last Monday - has done.

However, Done Deal's founder Daniel Parker now concedes the move was a "silly" one and says his company has had huge backlash from potential customers.

Morgan closed the loophole in February, but when Done Deal launched it sent out unsolicited e-mail to the harvested e-mail addresses. Morgan says he knows the addresses came from TradeMe users as he checked with Done Deal to see where they came from.

Done Deal's Parker says he was sent the list from an unnamed source.

"We were stupid enough to use those addresses. They were sent to us via a Hotmail account, basically anonymously," says Parker. He claims he got the e-mail two days after the launch of the auction site.

"The e-mail wasn't too specific but it said they were taken from public sections on TradeMe's website back in February."

Parker doesn't believe there is any law against what Done Deal did, but adds "you probably shouldn't do it and hence the reason why we're not doing it any more…We've knocked it on the head."

He says TradeMe obviously realised there was a loophole in their site in February, which is why it changed its policy.

TradeMe has only recently published its privacy policy -- put up on the site on July 7. In it the company specifically rules out selling its users' e-mails to third parties.

"Trade Me does not sell or rent your personal identification to third parties. We release account and other personal information only when we believe release is appropriate to comply with law; enforce or apply our terms and conditions; or protect the rights, property, or safety of Trade Me Limited, our users, or others," it says.

"The thing that concerns us most," says Morgan, "is that people think we had something to do with it. We don't want to be thought of as a company that would sell off our customer contact details," says Morgan.

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