The SHOP SAFE Act Jeopardizes Privacy

By: Noah Vehafric

Congress wants to crackdown on counterfeit goods at the expense of your privacy. Doing business online may about to become a lot riskier if the SHOP SAFE Act becomes law.

The SHOP SAFE Act requires that platforms collect a proof of address from sellers on their platforms. This is done by providing the platform with a copy of one’s government-issued ID. Once verified, sellers must attest that they took “reasonable steps” to ensure their product was not counterfeit or they face legal liability.

This law is extremely vague. It defines “electronic commerce platform” as any online publicly accessible platform that enables the sale, purchasing, payment, or shipping of goods.” Under this definition its meant to include services like Etsy, Amazon, eBay, Craiglist, and Facebook Marketplace but also could include services like UberEats, Drizzly, Go Puff, DePop who would have to begin collecting this information from their millions of sellers. The doesn’t even attempt to define what “Reasonable steps” means.

Third-party sellers are hesitant to share this information since it exposes their private information to more entities than it neccesarry, let alone open themselves up to legal liability if the product they sold was unknowingly counterfeit. In an age where data breaches have become all too common and when Congress has failed to develop a comprehensive national standard for consumer data privacy, forcing individuals to provide this information for something as insignificant as selling an old bike on Craigslist is a precarious policy.

The problems with the SHOP SAFE Act don’t detract from the very real issue of counterfeit sales online. That’s why major platforms like Amazon, eBay, Etsy, and Facebook Marketplace have already initiated their own procedures to combat the sale of counterfeit goods through tracking and identification of products without targeting sellers privacy.

This bill itself is itself a cheap knock-off of the INFORM Consumers Act that was introduced in the Senate earlier this year which wanted to require sellers publish their personal addresses online. These types of bills open everyday users who want to sell products online to increased risks have received opposition from across the political spectrum with organizations like The Electronic Frontier Foundation, The Internet Association National Taxpayers Union, Rep. Ken Buck and many more openly opposing it.

E-Commerce has become a vital source of income for many small businesses and families during the COVID-19 pandemic. Individuals shouldn’t have to relinquish their privacy and safety for wanting to make some additional income selling products online.

Photo Credit: “Macbook Pro” by Igor Miske licensed for free use.