An eye-opening report from Motherboard reveals that popular iOS and Android email apps that claim to put “privacy-first” are scraping data from users’ inbox and selling them for a profit.
One such popular third-party email service is Edison Email, a free cross-platform app with millions of downloads. It was found selling anonymized data and analytics scraped from users’ inbox to ad agencies in finance, travel, and e-commerce sectors.
Such third-party email apps can scan people’s inboxes for online profiling which includes metrics like brand loyalty and purchase habits. This information is purchased by companies for their marketing campaigns and product development.
On interviewing Edison customers, Motherboard found that the users weren’t even aware of what was happening.
If you look at the Edison website, it has phrases like “privacy by design” and “privacy first” which seems misleading once you get to know how they scrape and sell personal data.
Notably, Edison ranks as the 58th most popular productivity app on the App Store with a 4.6/5 star average rating.
Usually, email companies gain the right to access and scan users’ inboxes through “personalized” features. But while promoting the privacy based features on their websites, the fine prints also clearly mention that you can opt-out of these personalized features.
Edison’s privacy policies also provide a way for users to opt-out of this data collection without any consequences to user experience. But not every user is aware of the same.
After the Motherboard’s investigation was published, a blog post by Edison was released where it explained the efforts made by the company to be more transparent about what it’s doing behind the scenes.
Other apps following the suit
According to Motherboard’s report, two more major email apps were found collecting user data in questionable ways — CleanFox and Rakuten’s Slice.
Cleanfox lets users seamlessly unsubscribe from unwanted newsletters with just one click. Whereas, Rakuten Slice identifies e-receipts from inboxes and extracts every data point about every purchase that can be used by companies for marketing campaigns. In return, Rakuten Slice gives users a personalized online shopping experience.
Regardless, users should avoid third-party email apps such as Edison and CleanFox.
To quit a third-party email app you have been using, head over to your email provider’s settings page and remove its access. On Gmail, go to Security > Manage Third-Party Access for the same.