October 7, 2014

Sign the Petition, People

Seattle Met ran a feature about bike theft in its October issue. "This Is What Happens to Your Bike After It's Stolen" is most interesting for those in or at least familiar with the Emerald City, but click through to see the accompanying artwork if nothing else. Todd McLellan's graphic of a bicycle's multitudinous parts, disconnected from one another but still arranged in roughly the proper configuration, calls to mind the chop shops described in Casey Jaywork's text.

Most striking to me were the piece's revelations about Craigslist:
Whereas eBay and Facebook feature 'back doors' for law enforcement to track suspected thefts, [Stolen Bike Registry founder Bryan] Hance says, Craigslist’s tiny San Francisco staff relies on users to flag illegal or inappropriate posts. But read the fine print: Craigslist’s terms of use stipulate that when it comes to site moderation, the company has 100 percent authority and 0 percent responsibility, making it difficult for aboveboard users to organize against illicit sellers. 'The minute you start pointing out that they’ve got stolen goods, you’ve violated their terms of service and they’ll send you a cease and desist,' Hance says. The terms also nix bots that can comb the site for postings whose descriptions match stolen goods, as part of a larger strategy by the for-profit company to prevent competitors from using its data.
And eBay, too, had suffered in my estimation by article's end. Jaywork tells the story of how a "scrupulously honest bike buff in Maryland" bought on eBay a used frame that turned out to be a $8,300 Mudhoney stolen from Seattle resident Whitney Rosa nine months earlier. The buyer asked for the serial number during the online auction, but, since the seller offered a lame excuse for withholding it, didn't get a chance to check it until the frame arrived. Upon determining that the bike had been reported stolen, the buyer contacted Seattle police, eBay, Whitney Rosa, and other customers (presumably to alert them that they, too, might be in possession of stolen property).

According to the sketchy (and subsequently busted) seller at least, this last part of the buyer's action was in violation of eBay policy. "It has come to our attention that you have broken a serious eBay policy and contacted past buyers regarding transactions they completed with us," wrote the seller. "This is harassment & a serious eBay policy violation… Please stop playing vigilante."

What both eBay and Craigslist should do is require serial numbers on bike listings. Seattle's Project 529 is collecting signatures on a petition to that effect. BTB covered the effort back in June, but it's not too late to learn more and express your support.  

No comments:

Post a Comment