Unroll.me 'heartbroken' after being caught selling user data to Uber

After reports emerged it sold customer email data to Uber, inbox clean-up service Unroll.me has issued a true Silicon Valley non-apology.

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Claire Reilly was a video host, journalist and producer covering all things space, futurism, science and culture. Whether she's covering breaking news, explaining complex science topics or exploring the weirder sides of tech culture, Claire gets to the heart of why technology matters to everyone. She's been a regular commentator on broadcast news, and in her spare time, she's a cabaret enthusiast, Simpsons aficionado and closet country music lover. She originally hails from Sydney but now calls San Francisco home.
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Claire Reilly
2 min read

Unroll.me promises a more simplified inbox.


You know what they say: If you're not paying for the product, you are the product.

Now some are realising the price they paid for using free inbox clean-up service Unroll.me, after the company opened up about its practice of selling users' email data.

Unroll.me promises to organise your inbox by sorting subscription emails and letting you unsubscribe from the ones you don't want. But according to reports, Unroll.me also tracked emailed receipts sent by the ridesharing company Lyft, and sold them to Uber, Lyft's biggest competitor.

The revelation came in an excoriating report in The New York Times on Uber's attempts to succeed in Silicon Valley, which also included secretly identifying and tagging iPhone users, even after the app had been deleted from the users' phones. (In a statement Uber said, "We absolutely do not track individual users or their location if they've deleted the app," but the company did not comment on the Unroll.me issue.)

While Unroll.me did not specifically admit to selling data to Uber, it has apologised for not being "explicit enough" in explaining how its free service worked.

"It was heartbreaking to see that some of our users were upset to learn about how we monetize our free service," CEO Jojo Hedaya said on the Unroll.me blog.

While reiterating that "all data is completely anonymous and related to purchases only," Hedaya admitted, "we need to do better for our users" by offering clearer information on its website.

Update, April 25 at 11.01 a.m. AEST: Added comment from Uber.

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