OpenTable moves to doxx all users, then immediately backtracks

OpenTable, a restaurant reservation platform, said that users who had previously posted anonymous reviews would soon have their real names revealed. After a backlash, though, the firm reversed course.

First, OpenTable informed their users – who have collectively written 136 million reviews so far – that starting on May 22nd, their postings will now feature their real first names and profile pictures instead of usernames.

“At OpenTable, we strive to build a community in which diners can help other diners discover new restaurants, and reviews are a big part of that,” the company wrote in an email seen by Bleeping Computer. “We've heard from you, our diners, that trust and transparency are important when looking at reviews.”

Most importantly, the change was to affect all already existing reviews, even those written ages ago. What’s more, the reviews were to display the specific date an individual dined at the place they reviewed.

The push towards more transparency is not irrational. Many reviews on OpenTable, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and other similar platforms are fake or written by struggling rivals, keen to hurt competing businesses.

There have also been reports on restaurant review scams that typically involve offering people money or rewards to write fake – mostly positive but also negative – reviews.

In addition, scammers extort restaurants with one-star reviews. After coordinated one-star ratings attacks, scammers email the restaurants to demand small cash payments in exchange for deleting the reviews.

One could probably argue that the value of reviews has fallen since bots and AI-generated posts have overwhelmed most such platforms, and they simply have to do something.

However, not everyone was happy with OpenTable also applying the change to past reviews. Even though the company allows users to remove old reviews or change profile pictures, it’s a bit of a hassle.

Other users also said that revealing their pictures and first names could lead to repercussions from restaurants and owners for negative comments. Finally, some threatened legal repercussions.

Just hours later, though, OpenTable said it was reversing course – partly. The company is still going forward with only allowing the use of real names in future reviews but real names will not be applied to someone’s existing reviews library.

Glassdoor, a website where current and former employees anonymously review companies, recently also required all users to be verified with personal details like their full name.

Publicly, users can remain anonymous, but Glassdoor stores their real names, so there’s always the risk that true identities could be leaked. Besides, Glassdoor has already been legally forced to unmask employees who left negative reviews in New Zealand.

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