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Edison Mail Responds to Report on Email Apps Selling Anonymized Data Scraped From Inboxes

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A report today from Motherboard highlights several email apps that sell anonymized or pseudonymised data collected from users’ inboxes, including Edison Mail, Cleanfox, and Slice, adding that many users are unaware of this practice.
An excerpt from the report:

The popular Edison email app, which is in the top 100 productivity apps on the Apple app store, scrapes users’ email inboxes and sells products based off that information to clients in the finance, travel, and e-Commerce sectors. The contents of Edison users’ inboxes are of particular interest to companies who can buy the data to make better investment decisions, according to a J.P. Morgan document obtained by Motherboard.

Data obtained by Motherboard reveals what some of the information scraped from emails can look like, using Slice as an example:

A spreadsheet containing data from Rakuten’s Slice, an app that scrapes a user’s inbox so they can better track packages or get their money back once a product goes down in price, contains the item that an app user bought from a specific brand, what they paid, and an unique identification code for each buyer.

The report serves as a good reminder to review the privacy policies of apps that you use. Edison Mail is transparent about its data collection in its privacy policy, for example, noting that it uses “non-personal data such as seller, product and price extracted from information we collect” to help its Edison Trends business partners “aggregate and understand commerce trends.”Edison’s privacy policy and support website also indicate that users can opt out of having their anonymized data shared with Edison Trends partners by navigating to Account > Settings > Manage Privacy in the app.

Most importantly, Edison Mail requires users to accept or decline Edison Trends data collection during initial setup of the app.

Edison emphasizes its transparency in its response to the report:

To keep our Edison Mail app free, and to protect your privacy by rejecting an advertising-based business model, our company Edison Software, measures e-commerce through a technology that automatically recognizes commercial emails and extracts anonymous purchase information from them. Our technology is designed to ignore personal and work email, which does not help us measure market trends.

Edison puts privacy first in everything we do as a company and that includes making our users aware of how we use their data in our products. You have complete control over how your information is used and we allow you to opt-out of data sharing in our research product, without impacting your app experience. We strive to be as transparent as possible about our business practices in our press communications, Edison Mail website, Edison Trends website, privacy policy, blog posts, on our app store pages, on social media, and of course, in our app itself. We do not participate in any ad targeting of our users and do not allow others to do ad targeting of our users.

To learn more, read Edison’s lengthy blog post on its business model from last year.

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