Unroll.me Sold Your Data to Uber, Under Fire from Apple for Unethical Practices

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What they say about free services is true: most likely, if you’re not paying for the service, you’re the product. One such service is called Unroll.me. This service claims to help rid you of spam emails by unsubscribing your services and sorting out your inbox.

Then there is Lyft; a company that helps you find rides. Chances are, if you use either of these services then your information has been sold to Uber.

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Image Source: The New York Times – Uber headquarters in San Francisco. The company has grown fast, spreading to more than 70 countries and gaining a valuation of nearly $70 billion.

According to an article published by the New York Times, Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick stated that such strategies are business intelligence gathering methods. He justified the purchasing of information from market research company Slice Intelligence (owner of Unroll.me) so he could keep a close eye on his competition.

Slice Intelligence used Unroll.me to collect customer data from those using Lyft services. The information collected from customer inboxes included Lyft receipts and routes to Uber.

And it isn’t just Uber that buys this type of marketing information. Slice also admitted the data it collects has also been sold to other parties – but declined to reveal who they are.

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Image Source: The New York Times – When Mayor Bill de Blasio tried to cap the number of Uber cars in New York, the company campaigned hard against the measure.

And if you feel bad for Lyft, put aside your worry. They do the exact same thing, having a team that collects business intelligence on its customers for the company.

The New York Times report highlights Apple’s removal of Uber’s application from their App Store because of unethical practices they attempted to conceal, as well.

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Image Source: New York Times – Taxi drivers and others who supported Mr de Blasio’s efforts to halt Uber’s expansion rallying outside City Hall in Manhattan in 2015.

The issue began in China, where drivers purchased stolen iPhones. The drivers hacked the phones, used fake emails to book rides with Uber and then accepted the fake rides they had booked themselves. This increased their points and allowed them to receive a bonus that Uber offers.

Because of the hack, Uber started documenting the iPhones used to rip off the company. These red flags remained on the iPhone even after a factory reset. Because this practice went against Apple’s policy, Uber decided to geo-fence the iPhones, allowing them to track the phones and thus where people were located. They cloaked this method in such a way that they thought Apple wouldn’t notice.

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Image Source: The New York Times – Uber employees in San Francisco. The company, which has set growth as its main goal, has suffered a series of setbacks in recent months.

Apple’s CEO Tim Cook wanted Uber to stop using the tracking method. Uber’s CEO agreed but when asked about their unethical practices of tracking iPhones they denied the claim, saying Uber doesn’t track people once the application is uninstalled from the users’ phone.

Source: The Intercept, The New York Times


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