There’s a familiar saying in the tech world: If you’re not paying, you’re the product. Which means, if you’re not paying to use a service, the company providing it has to be profiting in a different way, and that’s usually by selling the data it collects on its users to third parties. This is perfectly legal—you give the company permission to do so by signing off on its terms of service. As The Intercept highlighted earlier this week, the latest tech company to catch flak for giving away data on its often unwitting customers is Unroll.me, a service that helps you organize and unsubscribe from email newsletters. If you're a user, it's probably time you revoked its access to your information. But doing so, unfortunately, is a little more complicated than just deleting your account on the site.
The initial revelation came out as part of a New York Times profile on Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, which revealed that Uber bought information on Unroll.me users from a data analytics service called Slice—data that Unroll.me users probably didn't know the company was collecting in the first place, like their emailed purchase receipts. “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," the Times reported.
Presumably, when you signed up for Unroll.me, you thought you were giving the company access to your email so that it could help you sift through annoying spam newsletters—not so that it could sell other companies information about the stuff you buy.
Despite issuing an apology, the company isn’t going to stop how it does business. “We never, ever release personal data about you,” Unroll.me says, but it’s still going to collect information from your email. “All data is completely anonymous and related to purchases only.” But most people would rather not have a company trading data on what they buy.
So yes, it’s probably time you deleted the service. To do so, you’ll need to go into your email settings. Here’s how to do it in Gmail:
1. Go to “My Account.”
2. Under “Sign-in and Security,” click “Connected apps and sites.”
3. Go to “Apps connected to your account” and click on Unroll.me. Hit “remove.”
4. Start looking through those privacy statements and terms of service pages, even if they're full of legalese. For an easy way to see what a company wants to do with your data, search the page for the term "third party."
[h/t The Intercept]