Have you ever used Unroll.me, the web service that helps you unsubscribe from newsletters in bulk? If so, your emails have been scanned by that company and sold to third parties including Uber. There’s a chance they’re scanning your emails right now.
If you want to switch tabs right now and remove third-party access to your email account, I don’t blame you. It’s the first thing I did when I found out. Come back when you’re ready, though, because I know you’re curious how Uber is involved.
You might be aware that Uber is having, shall we a say, a difficult few months in the public relations department. The latest incident is a New York Times profile of CEO Travis Kalanick, which reveals the company was fingerprinting iPhones against Apple’s terms of service—Apple CEO Tim Cook reportedly threatened to pull Uber out of the App Store altogether over it. That’s what made headlines yesterday, but scroll down a little further and you’ll find this tidbit about a company called Slice Intelligence, which Uber hired to do market research.
“Using an email digest service it owns named Unroll.me, Slice collected its customers’ emailed Lyft receipts from their inboxes and sold the anonymized data to Uber,” the article states.
We Got Played
I used Unroll.me many years ago. If you’re anything like me, a few things came to mind after reading about this.
- Wait…Unroll.me is owned by a market research company? When did that happen?
- That company scans people inboxes for reasons other than finding newsletters?
- Does this thing still have access to my emails?
When I first started using Unroll.me, it was a two-person startup. I had no idea the service was still enabled on my Gmail account all these years later, and I had no idea that a market research company with a villainous name had since bought the service.
I’ll admit it: I got played. I feel betrayed. And I’m not the only one.
— Robbie Jack (@devevangelist) April 23, 2017
I apologize to whomever I’ve recommended @Unrollme to over the past couple of years
— Dvir Volk (@dvirsky) April 24, 2017
An uproar against Unroll.me quickly surged, and with good reason.
Is This Legal?
This is completely legal. Unroll.me doesn’t exactly go out of its way to advertise that it’s selling anonymized information from your inbox to third parties, but the information is there for anyone willing to dig for it. The Unroll.me privacy page specifically allows…