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Scientology Given Direct Access To eBay Database 684

Posted by kdawson
from the finger-on-the-scale dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Church of Scientology can delete auctions from eBay with no supervision under the VeRO program, and has used this to delete all resale of the e-meters Scientologists use. This is to stop members from buying used units from ex-members instead of buying from the official (and very expensive) source. Given Scientology's record of fraud and abuse, should eBay give them this level of trust? Will this set a precedent for other companies that want to stop the aftermarket resale of their products?"
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Scientology Given Direct Access To eBay Database

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @03:51PM (#22478948)
    Seems to me that given the recent Project Chanology protests against Scientology, this would be the perfect time for Anonymous to organize a massive boycott of eBay. Or worse, expand their DOS and hack attacks to include eBay, since they're cooperating with the CoS.

    Posting this AC because, frankly, I don't want anybody to think I'm advocating this. I'm just saying I wouldn't be surprised if it happened.
  • Curious (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jav1231 (539129) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @03:51PM (#22478966)
    Who knew the NSA is the least the vast conspiracy-minded unwashed have to fear.

    I wonder who at eBay is high up the kook-chain in Scientology?

  • Re:short answer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AoT (107216) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @03:53PM (#22478982) Homepage Journal
    It isn't even favoritism, it's outright stupid given CoS' past abuses.
  • by PrinceAshitaka (562972) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @03:53PM (#22478992) Homepage
    If I am the manufaturer of a widgit, what do I have to do to gain access to Ebay to delete whatever auctions I want? Do I just have to write in the EULA that I have this right and then go onto Ebay and delete the auctions of competitors.
  • Re:short answer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Brian Gordon (987471) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @03:56PM (#22479060)
    It's outright stupid, period. Why does ebay give this power to anyone? What do they possibly stand to gain from it? And how on earth does the CoS, or anyone, restrict after-market resale of their products? It's called the free market and it's America. Licensing software is one thing, but a physical object? What ?
  • this = Scientology (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eleuthero (812560) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @03:57PM (#22479078)
    Though the fraud claim will probably lead to slashdot getting sued, Germany http://www.upi.com/NewsTrack/Top_News/2007/12/08/scientology_facing_ban_in_germany/5643/ [upi.com] and several other countries have taken steps to limit scientology within their borders. While many might seek to compare this to the actions of many Islamist states, scientology's claims often involve situations that fall under racketeering laws not aspects of religious freedom.
  • Re:Is this legal? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Romancer (19668) <romancer@deathsd ... 5926com minus pi> on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @03:59PM (#22479102) Journal
    Preventing the resale is one thing, direct access to a market is unprecidented. Since scientology doesn't actually own these devices any longer and ebay has given then direct access to removing these devices from private sale this is definatly a step over the line.

    Imagine if the makers of the other products out there followed suit. You would not be able to purchase second hand goods. Only directly from the original outlet. Kinda stifles the economy since the majority of vehicles out there are purchased as used items. Just one example but it would have a very bad impact if this method of controlling profit spreads.
  • I'm torn... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by CFBMoo1 (157453) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:01PM (#22479140) Homepage
    Part of me feels bad because this just sounds so wrong on so many levels and these people should be able to sell that garbage. Quite honestly I'm going to argue that the Church of Scientology is not environmentally friendly if they're going to force people to buy new and not ever get used. If they can't sell this stuff used it's going to end up in the garbage.

    The other part of me can't help but laugh hysterically that these people actually bought in to Scientology in the first place.
  • Thats it! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Coraon (1080675) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:01PM (#22479158)
    I will not work with ANY company that works with those evil *deleted*. I will no longer use e-bay or paypal. they want my business back, go neutral or allow all religious groups to delete auctions.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:01PM (#22479160)
    Hmm I wonder if they have access to my address, birth date, CC number etc. That would be kind of scary.
  • by AoT (107216) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:08PM (#22479256) Homepage Journal
    I'm sure they could think of some creative ways to mess with eBay.

    Mass false bidding on auctions or the like. Not to give suggestions or anything, but they could start sniping auction with fake accounts and never pay. Doing it on a large enough scale could affect eBay's bottom line. They could start spamming people with emails about how eBay is going broke. I'm sure there's plenty of other things I'm not even thinking about that they could do.
  • Re:short answer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:10PM (#22479290) Journal
    You know, I simply don't understand why the government lets $cientology have its cake and eat it too. If they're a religion, then they shouldn't be afforded all these civil protections. I'm not going to get sued by my local Catholic Diocese if I print nasty bits from the Bible or some part of the latest Papal encyclical.

    I think the government should give $cientology a choice; either be a religion, in which case you can't sue, you can't seek special favors from companies over the resale of your products, and so forth, or you're not a religion, and you're a business, in which case you've got to pay taxes on moneys or products changing hands.

    And in either case, their lawyers should be disbarred for multiple cases of malicious prosecution.

    Or, in short form, FUCK $CIENTOLOGY.
  • by Gordonjcp (186804) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:10PM (#22479300) Homepage
    A quick google for "e-meter schematic" reveals about 1200 pages. The first few that I checked have the circuit diagram for the e-meter, often directly drawn from L. Ron Hubbard's 1966 patent.

    For those who can't figure out the diagram, it's basically a Wheatstone bridge with a simple (crappy) differential amplifier. It's the sort of thing anyone could build from pennies worth of components.
  • by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:11PM (#22479322) Homepage Journal
    You're not thinking rationally. Were Anonymous to DOS eBay, they would make a one-day severe dent in eBay's profitability. eBay would have a tarnished reputation (worse than it already is tarnished) and Anonymous, having nothing better to do, would just use every proxy available to keep up the DOS for as long as they please with little fear of being found, while everyone cheers them on. Anonymous may consist of mainly pedos and trolls, but there are the few that know their business and can bring most any online company to their knees with a botnet or two, and there are plenty of spin doctors amongst the Anonymous. When they say they are Legion, they're not fucking joking. Ten million requests at once will bring almost ANY server without load management to it's knees, and last I tried a DOS on eBay for fucking with my mother's account, it only took a mere 5,000 simulataneous requests every ten seconds to DOS them. Imagine ten million browser tabs with auto-reload set using proxy connections. Yea, huge DOS.
  • Re:short answer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:12PM (#22479332) Homepage Journal

    Filing a Copyright Counter Notice. For listings that have been removed at the request of the rights owner for copyright infringement, you may have the option of filing a Counter Notice with eBay if you feel that your listings were removed in error and you have not been able to come to an agreement with the rights owner.

    A Counter Notice is a form provided by eBay in compliance with the requirements of the federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The form is a legal document that requires you to, among other things, certify under sworn penalty of perjury that your listings were not infringing and were removed by mistake or misidentification. When you sign a Counter Notice, you will also have to consent to federal jurisdiction and service of process. Please read this form carefully, so you fully understand what you agree to if you choose to submit it to eBay.

    Once a valid Counter Notice is submitted, eBay will provide a copy of the notice to the reporting party and will advise them that the listings will be reinstated after 10 business days if we do not hear from the reporting party that they have filed an action seeking a court order to restrain you from re-listing the items.
    This part is interesting. Assuming eBay doesn't just file 13 these counterclaim notices, I wonder which way a Federal court would rule on it? I don't see where they have legal grounds for a copyright case on a hardware device that you're just reselling. I'm not sure many people want to deal with the CoS lawyers long enough to find out though.
  • by arkham6 (24514) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:14PM (#22479368)
    The government is not stopping sale of e-meters, and eBay, as a private vendor, can fully decide what and what not can be sold on their site. If they choose not to allow sale of e-meters, then thats their prerogative.

    The CoS is not doing anything illegal either, since they are acting now as an agent of E bay.

    But I think a much better question is, what did scientology do to eBay to get them to agree to this?
  • Is it just me, or... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Bearhouse (1034238) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:15PM (#22479404)
    is there rather a lot of anti-Scientology stuff here recently?

    Interestingly, I don't see a lot - make that *any* pro-posts either. Surely somewhere in the vast /. userbase there must be some of L. Ron's acolytes. Plenty of science and SciFci fans here.

    C'mon boys, stand up for your faith!

    Or is that forbidden too?
  • Re:Off topic, yet... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:16PM (#22479406)
    So, which one [google.com] are you?
  • by PseudoLogic (863516) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:17PM (#22479420)
    From the "E-Meter" wikipedia link in the summary: "In 1958 when Scientologists Don Breeding and Joe Wallis developed a modified, smaller battery-operated version, which they presented to Hubbard, he again used it. This was christened the Hubbard electrometer. Hubbard patented it on December 6, 1966, as a "Device for Measuring and Indicating Changes in the Resistance of a Human Body" (U.S. Patent 3,290,589 ). The patent is now expired and in the public domain. The Church of Scientology continues to make, sell, and teach its use in auditing." So if the E-Meter is in the public domain, how can they control who resells them?
  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:22PM (#22479502) Journal

    Though the fraud claim will probably lead to slashdot getting sued, Germany http://www.upi.com/NewsTrack/Top_News/2007/12/08/scientology_facing_ban_in_germany/5643/ [upi.com] and several other countries have taken steps to limit scientology within their borders. While many might seek to compare this to the actions of many Islamist states, scientology's claims often involve situations that fall under racketeering laws not aspects of religious freedom.


    And then there's this:

    http://www.xenu-directory.net/news/19920912-globeandmail.html [xenu-directory.net]
  • by 8127972 (73495) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:28PM (#22479582)
    ... What are the odds that these jokers will try to pull the same stunt? Perhaps that's the answer?
  • by AtariDatacenter (31657) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:33PM (#22479648) Homepage
    That's wacky. Try it yourself... [ebay.com]
    In the search box type (without quotes) "emeter". If you type it with the quotes, that's different.
    What happens? You perform a search for "exeter"!

    I'm sure it isn't anything sinister, though. A search for "cimputer" is changed into a search for "computer". But it sure is confusing.
  • Re:short answer (Score:2, Interesting)

    by drxenos (573895) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:37PM (#22479692)
    A band where I live got sued by a local catholic church because the band's name was "Immaculate Mary."
  • Re:My guess is... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by an.echte.trilingue (1063180) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:40PM (#22479752) Homepage
    Where I live, Belgium, they are not considered a religion. Neither are they in Germany [germany.info]:

    On November 11, 2004 the Administrative Court in Cologne ruled that the monitoring of SO Germany by the Office for the Protection of the Consitution is lawful. The Court underlined that there are clear indications that the SO pursues anticonstitutional activities directed at abolishing the human rights guaranteed in the Basic Constitutional Law (Grundgesetz). An appeal at the Higher Administrative Court in Münster is pending.
    This is, interestingly, also the only group that does not benefit from some of the basic advances of the European integration. For example, Scientologists have been excluded from the free circulation of workers since Van Duyn v Home Office in 1974 [peterjepson.com].

  • Re:short answer (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pipatron (966506) <pipatron@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:42PM (#22479794) Homepage

    1) Group X could prove that anyone sellying Item Y was under contract not to resell it.

    Would this contract be legally binding in the US? If I sign a contract allowing you to kill me, would it be legal for you to then kill me? Would anyone trying to stop you from fulfilling this contract then be liable for knowingly helping me to breach a contract?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:43PM (#22479808)
    Really, this just the latest in a long line of Ebay shirking their duty to actually police their own system. The fact that it's Scientology doing the policing is what brought this to light. Between the VeRO program and the difficulty in reporting fraudulent auctions within the site, it's obvious that Ebay doesn't give two shiny pennies about the validity of auctions. All they care about is that people sell -something- on ebay, so they can get their percentage. It's why they bought Paypal, and then made it against the rules to use other checkout systems. It's why you routinely see knockoff, non-functional, and straight out scam auctions on Ebay constantly. Have you ever tried to CALL ebay, or Paypal? Good luck! I worked for a salvage company with over 23,000 positive feedback, and we had to argue constantly to keep paypal from charging us back, or ebay from cancelling valid auctions. At the same time I typically spent 2-3 hours a week seeking out and reporting false auctions that were duping our pics and descriptions- only perhaps half of them ever got cancelled.

    What it comes down to is that if Ebay doesn't expand it's personell enough to adequately monitor auctions, or start using some sort of peer-review system, people will go elsewhere.

    I don't buy from ebay unless it's the only source for what i need, and i never use paypal. Don't use paypal attached to your main bank account EVER, paypal has the ability to drain the account dry with no reason, and little recourse. Scary.

    posted anonymously to keep you from stalking me on ebay ;)
  • by KublaiKhan (522918) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:54PM (#22479964) Homepage Journal
    I think so. I don't have any of my notes with me at the moment, so I'd have to look up where I found that information in the first place, but I'm fairly sure that it was some variant thereof.

    Interestingly, I'd also read that Hubbard did not build the first one himself, and possibly may not have designed it--that he had hired an electrical engineer to do that.

    As I recall, there was a patent filed in....1995, I think, that covered 'improvements' to the device in question (which is the grounds for the eBay removals, IIRC)--it may not work quite the same today as it used to.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @05:31PM (#22480408)
    Microsoft does the same thing. I listed an Ebay auction to sell my Office 2000 Professional Full Edition, not an upgrade or an OEM, software that I paid for, and the ten thousand pound gorilla cancelled my auction. Fuck Microsoft and Fuck the church of scientology.

    Funny though. I have sold more than one Scientology official book on Ebay, and never had a problem. A friend of mine stumbled on a box of insider scientology manuals at an estate sale, and resold them on a website other than Ebay for a small fortune, within a day of listing them for sale.

  • Re:Is this legal? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @05:32PM (#22480430) Homepage Journal
    The way I read the description, all you have to do is file a counterclaim and then it is up to the VeRO user to get a federal order within 10 days or your auction goes back up. If they can get a federal judge to go along with them then VeRO is the least of your problems.
  • /.'ers - README (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @05:46PM (#22480640)
    Fellow /.'ers - Those of you who are getting pissed off with this cult and its numerous abuses of human rights, free speech and the legal system; join us on the streets of the major cities around the world this March 15th for a second global protest against the Scientology organization.

    The February 10th global protests were a huge success that has spawned hundreds of videos and news articles, and the next round has the potential to be an order of magnitude better. Take a stand with us and help us do something, anything, about this criminal organization... an organization that has bullied and lied its way to tax exemption status (that many of us here directly fund with our tax dollars), despite obviously being a ruthless business empire. An organization that has attempted to silence any and all critics with litigation, harassment and physical violence. An organization that is visibly gaining a foot hold in major media outlets and internet sites to wield toward its own nefarious ends.

    /.'ers are both an intelligent and cynical bunch, and you have no need to take my word for any of these claims. Do your own research, Google "Operation Freakout", "Operation Snow White", "Lisa McPherson", "Noah Lottick", "Scientology Fair Game Policy", "L Ron Hubbard", "R2-45", "Tom Cruise Missile" and most importantly, check out Enturbulation.org [enturbulation.org] to see what this movement is all about and how you can help.

    We have made a huge difference already, and will continue to do so. But the Church of Scientology is no cake walk in the tea park, we need all the help we can get. As much as we all love sitting around slamming Ballmer, bitching about monolithic kernel architecture and regurgitating ObSimpsons quotes - this is an golden opportunity to actually do something about a real and present evil in our society.

    Rise up and take action. You will not stand alone.
  • Re:short answer (Score:2, Interesting)

    by KarmaOverDogma (681451) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @05:54PM (#22480750) Homepage Journal
    "Short answer, No."

    Agreed, but here's one example of where they did:

    I had a NRFB MSOffice product posted on eBay and it was yanked by the Microsoft police because it was an "educational version." Their argument was, since I couldn't guarantee it would be sold to a qualified educational beneficiary as per their license distribution agreement, it was illegal.

    and so down it went.
  • Well if you ask me (Score:3, Interesting)

    by waffledoodle (1070284) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @05:55PM (#22480772)
    [This comment removed due to a copyright claim by Church of Scientology International]
  • by RecycledElectrons (695206) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @06:21PM (#22481118)
    This is the same thing that eBay has been doing since they killed my auctions in 1998.

    You see, Microsoft wanted to engage in illegal price fixing, and killed my auctions reselling copies of Microsoft software that I had won as door prizes.

    I had never agreed to a license agreement, so I was not bound by it, but eBay still allowed Microsoft to kill my auctions.

    It was only after I won my small-claims lawsuit against eBay for breech of contract, and another small claims court suit against Microsoft for slander that I got another eBay account. That's why my account says "since 1999."

    Anyway, great job hopping on this story 9 years later, /.

    Andy
  • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @07:52PM (#22482362)
    Well, if Ebay is willing to give one group of sociopaths access to their auctions, odds are there'll be other groups of people with axes to grind that will be clamoring for a similar level of control. This is a goddamned stupid thing for Ebay to do ... I can't think of a single legitimate reason for it. The only possibility that comes to mind is that there are some highly-placed Scientologists at that company. That actually wouldn't surprise me: those bastards are truly insidious.
  • by debrain (29228) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @08:02PM (#22482462) Journal

    I clicked the link you provided, but can't read through it all. Help out an ADD brother: which party was awarded how much damage? Has it been enforced?
    Summary:
    A lawyer working for the Church of Scientology stood on the steps of a courthouse in fancy lawyer gowns and said they were going to commence a criminal contempt proceeding against a Crown (State) attorney. This violated the ethical guidelines of the lawyer, threatened an officer of the State, and impugned the credibility of that officer and of the judicial system itself.

    The attorney and CoS were fined $300,000 each, and CoS $500,000 in aggravated damages and $800,000 in punitive damages.

    I would presume this has been enforced. The CoS is still operating just down the street from where I work.

  • by Babu 'God' Hoover (1213422) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @08:30PM (#22482754)
    Ebay is a legal party to transactions via it's site. A site allowing anything goes sales can only charge a 'publishing fee'. Craig's list doesn't charge anything so there's no way to compete.

    Yes, you could set up a pay to advertise or pay to view site for craig's list prohibited stuff like Nazi, gun, COS, shrunken head, stars and bars,... but most of this already gets traded in aficionado forums. Perhaps one of the COS related forums has a 'swapmeet' page. If not, it's likely the best place to make sale on an e-meter.

    IMO L-Ron wasn't even original. His quackery is much in the style of Edgar Cayce. Maybe COS needs all those lawyers to fend off these guys [edgarcayce.org]?
  • by prizm1 (1242626) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @10:08PM (#22483558)
    I'm a Scientologist and a Slashdot reader (who knew there could be such a thing?!). I generally just ignore these sorts of things, but as you say, there have been more of negative posts about my religion on here lately. I have to assume my post will go down in flames, but I figured that I might as well take a break from my usual lurker status here and make a few comments. The real story isn't sinister enough for a headline, as is usually the case with these things. As a few others have pointed out, the eBay VeRO program (no comment on that program itself) that is being used to take down e-meter auctions is actually an already established eBay program... It wasn't like "Scientology" was specially given 'direct access to eBay Database' (oh noes!!!!) as the headline claims. As for the e-meter, these are supposed to be for use only by Scientology ministers and ministers-in-training. Regardless of what you think of the e-meter or Scientology, what is happening here is a reasonable effort to protect that use legally. Of course there is no physical way to prevent every sale of a used e-meter to a non-minister, but eBay is a rather high-profile site where people sell used goods. It's quite a stretch to say this has anything to do with censorship, either. Time for the usual disclaimer of 'I am not a lawyer' and also another that I'm not involved in any of these actions officially, I just am commenting based on what I know and have observed. As an aside, I've always found it fascinating how some people will latch on to absolutely anything negative said about Scientology as proven fact and trounce anything positive. I also find it interesting how at least 90% (and I'm being generous here) of the stuff I have read online or in the media about Scientology doesn't even resemble what Scientology really is, and I have been a member for about 17 years now.
  • by Justabit (651314) <<Cash2You> <at> <bigpond.net.au>> on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @11:18PM (#22484022)
    There must be alot of dissalusioned ex members in Sydney cause we get them in our second hand store all the time. Lots of fun to play with the trick being to adjust your squeeze while looking at the meter. From what i can tell its just a fancy galvanic skin response meter that is heighly tunable. If you want to use it semi seriously you could see your reaction to questions you ask yourself, self diagnosis with a bit of force feedback. If you want to have fun with the poor meter drivers on open days that they have, think of horrible things when they ask you about your relationship with your kids, and nice things.. etc. Either way its an excellent device for practicing lying and therefor acting, no wonder TC and JT are into it. We have 1 or 2 regular buyers who get them all, no questions asked. Could be higher ups who dont want to make a fuss.
  • by JoshDM (741866) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @11:27PM (#22484064) Homepage Journal
    Heh. My auction page views actually have skyrocketed from 5 to 100 in just a few hours. Search for "E-meter"; I'm the one selling comic books.
  • I am sorry. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by xtracto (837672) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @08:16AM (#22486560) Journal
    I also find it interesting how at least 90% (and I'm being generous here) of the stuff I have read online or in the media about Scientology doesn't even resemble what Scientology really is, and I have been a member for about 17 years now.

    I am sorry for you my friend. I would suggest you see the story of people who where in Scientology for more than 20 years [xenutv.com] and were even "OT7" (whatever that means). Of course, I do not know if your church allows you to see such videos. (I would not count on that.. In fact i am surprised that your CoS nanny filter allows you to get into slashdot.

    Do not get me wrong, I have nothing about the Scientology religion, it is the "church" the one I think is bad. Similarly to how the Catholic church was bad some years ago (Spanish Incquisition). I know there are groups of people that follow the same beliefs as Scientologists, but they cannot call themselves Scientologists because they would get sued (WTF?).

    And, lastly, just for curiosity, do you *really* believe in Xenu and all those things described in OT3 ?

    Hope you the best! And I really hope you remember my post in some 10 years when you get out of Scientology and look back at all the years you wasted.

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