Over the weekend, the New York Times reported that back in 2015, Uber was forced by Apple to stop tagging the phone’s of people who deleted the ride-hailing app. But buried within the Times report was another tech chestnut: Uber had been buying email data — receipts and emails sent to people from Uber competitor Lyft — from Unroll.me, an email-unsubscribing service you’ve maybe used if you ever looked at your inbox, thought, This is too many damn Pottery Barn and Maple emails, and Googled a way to quickly bulk unsubscribe.
From the New York Times:
Uber devoted teams to so-called competitive intelligence, purchasing data from an analytics service called Slice Intelligence. 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. Uber used the data as a proxy for the health of Lyft’s business. (Lyft, too, operates a competitive intelligence team.)
Upon discovering that their information was being mined and sold — which at this point, maybe just assume that’s always the case if you’re giving away info online — some people were understandably peeved. Unroll.me co-founder and CEO Jojo Hedaya has since apologized on the company’s blog for not being more forthcoming with what his company was doing with user data. “Our users are the heart of our company and service. So it was heartbreaking to see that some of our users were upset to learn about how we monetize our free service,” Hedaya wrote. “And while we try our best to be open about our business model, recent customer feedback tells me we weren’t explicit enough.” Hate to see a corporation heartbroken! I guess for now it’s back to unsubscribing from newsletters and emails the old-fashioned way: clicking each link manually while walking uphill (both ways) in the snow, sharing a pair of shoes with your sibling.