Edison Mail, a moderately popular email client, evidently “processes” its users’ emails and then uses that data to sell market research products. Documents obtained by Motherboard also found Rakuten’s Slice and Foxintelligence’s Cleanfox using similar practices. Slice tracks packages, item prices, and other purchase metadata while Cleanfox tidies up inboxes. The scraped data has been connected to the likes of PayPal and consulting companies Bain & Company and McKinsey & Company.
What’s going on with your data? — A Foxintelligence presentation lists PayPal, Bain & Company, and McKinsey & Company as clients using data from the Cleanfox app. In a statement to Motherboard, COO Florian Cleyet-Merle said “crowd-sourced transaction data has a transformational power both for consumers and for companies and that a marketplace where value can be created for both sides without making any compromise on privacy is possible.” Rakuten did not dispute the data Motherboard obtained which placed the access price of one of its product categories at more than $100,000.
Despite toeing the line of privacy advocacy, Edison is already known for reading emails to improve its smart reply feature and its users were not clearly made aware of how their data is being used. A J.P. Morgan document implied the value of Edison inboxes to companies looking to make smarter investment decisions. The scraped data was mostly targeted to clients in finance, travel, and e-Commerce. The document cites Edison’s email app as the source of “consumer purchase metrics including brand loyalty, wallet share, purchase preferences, etc.”
In response to Motherboard’s piece, Edison Mail created a blog post detailing how they use data to make money and that evidence of these practices has existed for years. The post also underscores how users can opt-out of having their data used in this way.