Friday, February 14, 2020

Companies that Scrape Your E-mail

Joseph Cox (via Bruce Schneier, Hacker News):

The popular Edison email app, which is in the top 100 productivity apps on the Apple app store, scrapes users’ email inboxes and sells products based off that information to clients in the finance, travel, and e-Commerce sectors. The contents of Edison users’ inboxes are of particular interest to companies who can buy the data to make better investment decisions, according to a J.P. Morgan document obtained by Motherboard.


Some of the companies listed in the J.P. Morgan document sell data sourced from “personal inboxes,” the document adds. A spokesperson for J.P. Morgan Research, the part of the company that created the document, told Motherboard that the research “is intended for institutional clients.”


Edison is just one of several companies that offer free email apps which then sell anonymized or pseudonymised data derived from users’ inboxes. Another company that mines inboxes called Foxintelligence has data that comes from users of the Cleanfox app, which tidies up users’ inboxes.


To keep our Edison Mail app free, and to protect your privacy by rejecting an advertising-based business model, our company Edison Software, measures e-commerce through a technology that automatically recognizes commercial emails and extracts anonymous purchase information from them. Our technology is designed to ignore personal and work email, which does not help us measure market trends.

Michael Potuck:

While the developer says on its website that it does “process” its users’ emails, Edison customers that Motherboard interviewed said they didn’t realize what was happening.

And when looking at the big picture, Edison having phrases like “privacy by design” and “privacy first” on its website can feel misleading after learning about how they scrape and sell personal data.

Joe Rossignol:

Edison’s privacy policy and support website also indicate that users can opt out of having their anonymized data shared with Edison Trends partners by navigating to Account > Settings > Manage Privacy in the app.

Nick Heer:

Slice is owned by Rakuten, a Japanese e-commerce conglomerate that also owns A few years ago, the latter company was at the centre of a similar controversy over the appropriateness of scraping users’ inboxes for marketing data that can be sold.


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