Unroll.me exec “heartbroken” as users find out their data was sold to Uber

Email unsubscribe service CEO says he's sorry, not sorry

The CEO of email subscription service Unroll.me declared himself "heartbroken" that users found out he sold their data to the likes of Uber.

Users became aware their data was being shared following a New York Times profile of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, which while alleging that Apple once threatened to delete Uber's app, also revealed that Uber got data from Unroll.me that showed it how many users were using rival Lyft service based on emailed receipts. 

Unroll.me crawls through a user's email inbox looking for links emails that users can then unsubscribe from. After the firm was acquired by shopping app Slice, Unroll.me began to sell aggregated, anonymised data about users to other companies.

In a blog post, Unroll.me chief executive Jojo Hedaya, said that it was "heartbreaking to see that some of our users were upset to learn about how we monetize our free service".

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"While we try our best to be open about our business model, recent customer feedback tells me we weren't explicit enough," he said.

Hedaya said sorry for upsetting people who had just found out their data was being sold, but did not say sorry for selling their data in the first place. He added that most people did not bother to read through the terms and conditions before signing up for the service. Hedaya said that he himself didn't "take the time to thoroughly review them".

Adding that the website, app and FAQ will have clearer messaging on the kind of data it sells on about its users, Hedaya also said that his firm would "never, ever" release personal data about its users - the information it shares is anonymised. 

The revelation has nevertheless sparked anger among customers. One wrote: "What a load of hand-in-the-cookie-jar bullsh*t this is. Your entire service your entire reason for existence, as far as your cherished customers see it exists solely, wholly for the purposes of reclaiming privacy and inbox peace and quiet. Yes, I bet it is heartbreaking that this information got out this way. Though I do have trouble believing your heart aches for us." 

Another wrote: "You took my data and sold it to Uber and God knows who else... you can take your 'apology' and shove it. It's people like you Jojo who make humanity look worse and worse every day."

The debacle has led one person to draw up a guide on deleting the service.

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