Rakuten Sells Customers to Spammers for 10¢ Each


Japanese ecommerce giant Rakuten has caused outrage after being exposed as selling customer personal information, including names, email addresses and home addresses, to all comers for a trifling ¥10 each.

Rakuten is one of Japan’s largest online retailers, and its largest online mall (Rakuten Ichiba), with annual revenues of some $2.7 billion, and primarily does business as a shopping portal, with individual shops paying fees and commissions to be listed and have access to the company’s ecommerce platform.

The company offers its participating shops the opportunity to buy the personal data of customers (as CSV files) using a handy online form, though without email addresses included.


However, for shops with revenues or orders over a modest amount, simply submitting a form and getting past their “inspection” procedure is enough to get the full addresses. They even offer to “discuss” orders from shops not meeting these criteria.

Since anyone can open a shop with them, and what happens to the data once it is sold is anyone’s guess, it does not appear there are any serious safeguards in place, and indeed this is demonstrated by experiments and anecdotes.

Tests using email addresses created exclusively for the purpose of ordering from them (using Gmail and similar) reveal that the addresses are quickly subjected to a steady torrent of spam entirely unconnected to Rakuten (which is in Japanese and disturbingly sometimes carries the full name of the customer, and so is likely not automatically generated), demonstrating that the problem is far from theoretical.

The wholesale hawking of customer data is likely legal (and presumably “consented” to at some point by the customer), and has been going on for a number of years, though of course no customer would expect this sort of outrageously unethical behaviour from a major Japanese brand.

The actual revenues from these sales are not clear, but with at least 50 million registered users by their own admission, it seems likely to be significant enough to justify the practice in the eyes of an unscrupulous management.

As anyone who has shopped with Rakuten can likely attest, although the prices can be amongst some of the lowest available, the merchants themselves are quite variable in quality, and notably any email address used to order with them is highly likely to be bombarded with spam from both Rakuten and the individual sellers, leaving aside the issue of personal details being sold.

Via Gigazine.

Privacy conscious Japan is unlikely to quickly forgive this, and anything less than an immediate and groveling apology (coupled with a halt to the practice) seems likely to permanently damage the company’s brand, especially considering the mass media is likely to excoriate them for the practice.

Whilst few would care what happens to the company after such a scandal, it does seem possible it will damage overall confidence in online retailers in Japan, and this may be the most damaging effect of the scandal, saving the matter of furnishing spammers with millions of addresses of course…

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    Comment by SaruDa
    16:56 28/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Hey Artefact, you have at least AN email from each of us right? This sounds increasingly like a viable source for you to get quick cash.

    Avatar of Artefact
    Comment by Artefact

    Doing such a thing is unthinkable; shame on you for suggesting it.

    Comment by Anonymous
    20:44 28/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    *big thumbs up for mods*

    Comment by SaruDa
    06:33 29/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Yeah, you'd probably only make like $100 anyways, since all anonymous don't give you emails. Total waste of time, am I right?

    Comment by Riiku
    18:49 28/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Here in Russia, you can easily get a database of all the names, adresses, phone numbers, car owners with plate numbers, and more just like that. This is illegal of corse, but nobody gives a shit about it.

    Comment by Anonymous
    20:53 28/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    In Soviet Russia, spammers pwn YOU!!!

    Comment by Aldwin30
    16:21 28/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)


    Avatar of julian0086
    Comment by CanadaMann
    13:50 29/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Feminists never protest against these kind of insane merchants.
    What they target is always innocent eroge and mangas.

    what a shame!
    the world is still emphasizing women's rights!!
    the fact is, there is NO RIGHTS LEFT FOR MEN!!!

    Avatar of TsubasaNoTenshi
    Comment by TsubasaNoTenshi
    03:13 29/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    The amusing part is that information such as this usually costs somewhere in the ranks of thousands of Dollars. Risking one's reputation a clientele is surely not a wise approach, considering the pay.

    Comment by Anonymous
    14:26 28/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    this is just plain outrageous.
    all that i feel has been said in the article itself, but one word i must say myself: OUTRAGEOUS.

    Avatar of EndohMimi
    Comment by Mimi
    14:32 28/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    I know right? Ugh that totally sucks!

    Comment by Anonymous
    09:47 28/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Incredibly stupid. It doesn't take long for multiple networks to begin flooding once one of them has a small bit of information. Though admittedly, this site undergoes a similar process with its articles. But the difference is between private and public information. It's too invasive.

    Comment by Mike
    Comment by neonshadows
    16:01 28/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)


    First comment always fails

    Avatar of SenseiSyaoranLi
    Comment by SyaoranLi
    10:25 29/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)


    Comment by Anonymous
    11:03 29/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    C-C-C-C-Combo Breaker

    Comment by Anonymous
    08:17 29/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)


    Comment by Dr3y
    09:34 28/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    is hard be "first" ,right? xD

    Avatar of chriselric
    Comment by Chris
    11:48 29/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    First is serious biz. Learn it.

    Comment by Endo
    09:39 28/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Sounds like a legit comment. All I can say is "lol" to this article.

    Comment by King of Hentai Gods
    16:00 28/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    u make it looks like a game or competition to be the fucking 1st post... anyway, fucking congratulation xD

    Avatar of Shanyy
    Comment by Shanyy
    00:01 29/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Endo - Indeed.

    Also only one year ago, there wasn't this FIRST GET faggotry... And so many anons. Popularity brings down the quality. That happened to the 4chan, and I hope this awesome site will not gone the way of it.


    Comment by Mike
    09:40 28/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Considering I read though the whole thing before I posted, and I am not a fast reader, "being first" had nothing to do with the brief response.

    Lol is all that was needed to sum up my feelings on this article.

    Could have been WoW, Haha, that sucks, WTH, WTF, lol Japan, LOL internet, Lolz, lulz, laff, etc.

    Not exactly a shocking article considering this is far from an uncommon practice. It is just funny.

    I went with Lol

    Avatar of GHS
    Comment by GHS
    16:06 28/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Oh dear, you forgot roflcopter.

    Avatar of fatimmortal
    Comment by fatimmortal
    15:14 28/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)








    Avatar of hanzo
    Comment by Hanzo’
    15:54 28/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    ...good job?

    Avatar of fatimmortal
    Comment by fatimmortal
    21:16 28/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Omg, I did.

    Comment by Anonymous
    23:57 28/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)


    Avatar of Icy-nee-san
    Comment by Icy-nee-san
    09:53 28/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)


    Avatar of Kip
    Comment by Kip
    09:45 28/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    I have learned, if commenting about something is unnecessary or if ninety others already said the same, I should have no good reason to as well.

    Comment by Francox3
    10:41 28/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)


    Avatar of sanimej2
    Comment by sanimej2
    12:19 28/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)


    Avatar of basilio
    Comment by basilio
    11:34 28/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Well put, Kip, well put.

    Comment by liveevil
    10:32 28/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    The problem is how this can be avoided in the future. We can all be certain that if they weren't caught doing the act they wouldn't have stopped. So measures must be taken into account in order to avoid things such as this from happening.

    BTW, does the company have sort of a license agreement/terms of service when registering? If a clause is included there that states that all your private information will be protected, then everyone whose information was sold can sue the company.

    Comment by liveevil
    Avatar of basilio
    Comment by basilio
    11:45 28/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    "By agreeing to the above stated terms, you will allow Rakuten and all of its associates access to your personal information to sale for personal profits."

    Hahaha no, didn't read it. But it probably says that.

    Comment by liveevil
    16:55 28/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Well if it did then i guess we can't blame Rakuten and instead blame the laziness of the people subscribing in reading the Privacy Policy.

    Comment by Anonymous
    13:29 28/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    I've bought numerous things from Rakuten Download but never gotten any spam to the address I used. Dunno what that means.

    Avatar of Deviant Discordian
    Comment by Deviant Discordian
    13:59 28/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    This is... ugh, don't they have anything like the Data Protection Act we have over here?

    Comment by Redsight88
    12:07 28/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    I wouldn't be surprised if companies like Google are doing things like this behind our backs.

    Comment by SaruDa
    16:55 28/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Nope. Not behind your backs, it's all in their privacy policy.

    Avatar of Omochikaeri
    Comment by Omochikaeri
    12:35 28/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    That would be pretty funny, especially considering that they then stop the spam before it gets to us. LOL

    Avatar of basilio
    Comment by basilio
    11:40 28/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Hahaha, that's horrible. Imagine of something like eBay pulls that off. I wouldn't want spam saying "GET YOUR VIAGRA FOR $0.99 @ [WWW.DRUGS4CHEAP.COM]http://WWW.DRUGS4CHEAP.COM" or something, addressed directly at me with my name = ="... though I do get spam. Spam targeted at me personally would be... quite disturbing, so to speak.

    The company ought to change their policy about the sales or the release of personal information in general, to a third party. If not, people should boycott them. That would show them to respect their customers.

    Avatar of basilio
    Comment by basilio
    11:41 28/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Oh, and don't click on that link. I have no idea where that would lead you. Internet user discretion is advised. As well as common logic.

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