The Internet

Heads up: Paypal is launching an infuriating new user agreement

Do you use Paypal? If you do, you should go over to the Crime and the Forces of Evil blog RIGHT NOW and read up on Dara’s report on what they just tried to pull on her: making her choose between providing a phone number that they are then ready, willing, and able to robospam, or letting them datamine her by validating data on her that SHE NEVER GAVE THEM.

Of particular importance here is the link brought up by one of her commenters, in which the Washington Post reports that the new Paypal TOS, which kicks in on July 1st, gives them the right to robocall you on your cell phone. It also gives their affiliates and partners the right to robocall you. On your dime, of course, but screw that. Also screw giving you, the Paypal user, any ability to opt out of this.

There’s a word for this, and that word is bullshit.

Other links I’ve found that are pertinent to this:

Relatedly, I also note that both BGR and Gizmodo are reporting that Paypal has just been dinged for $25 million in fines for deceptive business practices. And this is hardly the first time I’ve heard about Paypal doing something shady, either; in 2012, they tried to make Smashwords remove certain types of fiction they considered objectionable, and threatened them with shutting down the Smashwords Paypal account if they didn’t comply. And if you go look at Paypal’s Wikipedia page, the Criticism section calls out a whole thorny tangle of other issues it’s been involved in.

All in all there’s plenty of basis to say that yes, Paypal is sketchy at best, if not outright reprehensible. This robocall feature in their new user agreement is just the latest in a chain.

And it is, frankly, infuriating. Enough so that both Dara and I are now seriously evaluating whether we can minimize if not outright remove our Paypal dependence. Frustratingly, Dara can’t–Paypal is the mechanism through which Bandcamp pays her for any sales there, and she doesn’t have an option to set up anything else there. And she can’t bail on Bandcamp.

Me, my main Paypal dependency is that it’s the primary means through which Smashwords pays its authors–ironic, given the aforementioned 2012 controversy. I could switch Smashwords over to paper check as my payment method, but if I did that, I wouldn’t see any payment out of them until I broke $75 balance. And right now, honestly, my sales there don’t warrant that.

So right now I’m going to have to seriously consider whether I’m going to have to bail on Smashwords, maybe in favor of Draft2Digital, which I’ve heard about via some of the other authors I know. D2D, at least, will let me hit several of the same vendor channels as Smashwords–and let me be paid directly to my savings account.

There’s one possible light at the end of this tunnel, at least. The Washington Post also reports that the FCC is looking at new legislation which might well cut Paypal and other companies off at the knees before they have a chance to pull any further egregious robocalling bullshit. I’d like to hope that this legislation is a thing that will happen.

But I ain’t going to count those chickens till they’ve hatched. And meanwhile, I have some serious evaluating to do. If you’re a Paypal customer, you should start doing that evaluating too. We have until July 1st to decide.

ETA: I have been directed to this report of PC World’s which suggests that Paypal may not actually go through with this. However, so far I do not find this to alleviate my concerns in the slightest. What I’m seeing here is Paypal going “OH SHIT THE INTERNET IS GOING TO FALL ON OUR HEADS”.

What I need to see out of them at this point is a clear public statement that says “no, we’re not going to do this,” including revisions to the forthcoming user agreement that call out how users may opt out of this robocalling and autotexting bullshit. Until that happens, I fully endorse the Internet falling on their heads over this.

Also, this doesn’t address Dara’s experience with them trying to process a transaction tonight. Let me be clear about this: they tried to get her to confirm data she had not given them, specifically, an old address of ours in Kentucky. Which Paypal had NO BUSINESS KNOWING.

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