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Unroll.me’s CEO is ‘heartbroken’ that users are upset their data was sold to Uber

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Unroll.me

In the latest in a string of negative press for Uber, this past weekend a massive New York Times report revealed that email decluttering service Unroll.me had been selling user data to Uber to help the company gain insight on when customers were switching between its service and its competitor, Lyft. According to the Times, Unroll.me did so by collecting Lyft receipts from its users’ inboxes and passing that information along to Uber for an undisclosed fee.

Naturally, users were upset to find out. Unroll.me CEO Jojo Hedaya attempted damage control by posting an apology to the company blog on Sunday, stating that “it was heartbreaking to see that some of our users were upset to learn about how we monetize our free service.” Hedaya claims the terms of service and privacy policy were clearly written in “plain-English” but the company could do better to be more transparent.

Users fired back at the CEO in the comments, calling the note a non-apology and demanding to have their collected data destroyed upon deleting their accounts. Unroll.me has yet to respond whether it will do so. In the meantime, one observer noted a peculiar section of the company’s Terms and Conditions which indicates that users may not link to any part of the Unroll.me website other than its homepage.

Unroll.me is far from the first company that mines your emails for analytics — Google’s Gmail, for example, also tracks users’ inboxes to serve targeted web, search, and YouTube ads. In 2015, Google released a tool called Customer Match that allowed companies to directly target ads to specific users based on where the user has shared their email address. The difference here appears to be that Google sells advertisers access to displaying ads to you, as opposed to selling competitive intelligence about you to third parties for whatever they’d like to do with it.

These collected data are supposedly anonymized to the degree that third party advertisers will never know who you are specifically, but as John Gruber wrote, “wiped iPhones are supposed to be anonymized too, and Uber found at least one route around that.”