Unroll.me is a service that many people use, myself included. The app effectively unsubscribes users from email mailing lists. In order to use the app, users have to grant permission to Unroll.me to scan email inboxes.
What users did not know is that Unroll.me created a little side business selling user data.
Acquisitions and Paperwork
Slice, the shopping app company, acquired Unroll.me in 2014. Part of that agreement included granting Slice access to user data. Working with rideshare company, Uber, Slice sold data gathered by Unroll.me to Uber, so that the car company could determine the corporate health of Lyft, an Uber competitor.
In other words, Unroll.me was selling information about users to the lists users were unsubscribing from. All of that news is shocking to Unroll.me users, but what might be more shocking is how Unroll.me CEO, Jojo Hedaya, responded to the accusations. In a recent blog statement, Hedaya noted that he was ‘heartbroken’ over the news.
Truth be Told
Hedaya noted that he was sad that some users were upset over the recent news. He added that even he ‘doesn’t read terms of service paperwork carefully.’ To be blunt, what Hedaya is saying is that Unroll.me users had a responsibility to read through the company’s terms of service after the Slice acquisition.
Users that did not understand that Unroll.me would be selling data in order to monetise the company were, clearly, upset. But whose fault is it, really? Is it the fault of the company that laid out the terms of service users did not take the time to read? Or is it the fault of the company for not making that particular term of service clear and noted?
For the Sake of Argument
It’s really rare that app users read through Terms of Service completely. Most of the time, users are busy and just want to start using an app (not read through a bunch of ink). More often than not, though, this means that users aren’t seeing or reading something they really should be. So what should you do to avoid being a victim?
Even though it’s painstaking and really tedious (intentionally, it seems) it’s a good idea to read through the small print. See what you’re agreeing to and note any acquisitions or updates. Sometimes just clicking through terms of service agreements might mean that you will wind up giving a company like Unroll.me permission to sell and view your data.
What You Can Do
Nothing. Really. There’s nothing that can be done now that Unroll.me has sold user data. The company claims that personal details like names and social security numbers have not been sold (and you should not be putting these details into emails in any case). Right now, in most parts of the world, it is up to the user to understand what terms are and abide by those terms.
On a personal note, using a free email app (like Unroll.me) means that you might be giving up something important. These companies have to make money, so often they sell data. It’s just business.