Selling User Data, Why is Anyone Still Surprised?

 

sell-user-data.jpgUnroll.me has found itself in the hot seat over the last few days after the New York Times reported that Uber has used its data to keep tabs on Lyft, its largest competitor. Unroll.me, which is a free service which advertises itself as an easy way to clean up your inbox. It allows users to quickly unsubscribe themselves from email lists and also organizes subscription emails and delivers a newsletter-style digest of some subscriptions.

After someone grants Unroll.me access to his or her email account, the company is able to scan user’s inboxes for information which it then sells to companies like Uber. The data is anonymous, so individuals’ names are not sold but email addresses which contain information like receipts from services like Lyft.  After the NYT article was published, there was a large outcry of angry users who felt their privacy was betrayed.  Unroll.me, made a statement that they’ve been open about these practices and that this is not uncommon in the world of data collection. As long as their private policy adheres to and does not sell personally identifiable information, they are free to sell their data. Unroll.me discloses it’s use of personal data in its privacy policy, which says that “we may collect, use, transfer, sell and disclose non personal information for any purpose” and that the data can be used “to build anonymous market research products and services.”

But let’s be honest, how many people read the often extensive private policies? Katharina Kopp, director of policy at the Center for Digital Democracy, said “Under the disguise of being customer friendly and helping their customers to get rid of ‘email junk,’ they allow the profiling and targeting of their unwitting customers by third parties…Their tactics are particularly misleading practice”. In my opinion,  in today’s technological age, people should expect that their information is a hot commodity, so if it’s important for them to keep their information private, it should read the small print.

Unroll.me stated in their blog that it didn’t think that people would be surprised at their business model and is making efforts to making their methods more transparent by providing more clearer messaging on its website, it’s app and in the FAQ’s.

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One Response to Selling User Data, Why is Anyone Still Surprised?

  1. sydhavely says:

    Data capture, it seems, is here to stay, in whatever form the “capturer” can, including Uber’s Mr. Kalanik. Timely and important post.

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