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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.

edison-mail.jpeg

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.

Update: Cleanfox parent company Foxintelligence has also responded to the report:
Since the very creation of Foxintelligence, we have chosen to be even more demanding than what is required by the General Regulations on the Protection of Personal Data (GDPR):

- We have always been completely transparent on the business model of Cleanfox and Foxintelligence. Nothing is hidden in illegible pages like Privacy Policy or Terms of Use. On the contrary, the business model is clearly and simply indicated when the user gives us his consent.

- We are also committed to never resell the personal data of our users, not to participate in any advertising targeting device and not to cause any harm to our users. Foxintelligence creates and resells anonymized and aggregated statistics, like any survey institute does.

- We believe in a model in which the service is free and the user is not the product.

Article Link: Edison Mail Responds to Report on Email Apps Selling Anonymized Data Scraped From Inboxes [Updated]
 
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XDR

macrumors newbie
Jan 12, 2020
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You are the product anyway, no matter if it's a free or paid app/service.
Google does this as well, officially, no surprise here :)

Apple still has some "dignity" in this field, for now, LOL
 
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mrwilly25

macrumors regular
Oct 4, 2015
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Even if you opt out, they will still sell your email address. Email accounts I've previously used in the app, are now being bombarded with spam emails when they never received a single one prior to using Edison.
 
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H2SO4

macrumors 601
Nov 4, 2008
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And this is why I stick to Apple's official apps.
There are so many things outside of the Apple eco system it beggars belief.
If that's your choice fine but I think its the worst advice you can give somebody. But ho about, "Do your research and use what works for you". Most people in the real world know you can't get by with just Apple products.
 
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Cosmosent

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Apr 20, 2016
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RE: "The report serves as a good reminder to review the privacy policies of apps that you use."

I disagree 100% !

Apple needs to add something new to App Submittals, a checkbox that says "Collects NO User Data".

If an App Dev checks it off, & the app is approved & later found to violate the term, it should be permanently removed from the App Store !

BTW, the Collects NO User Data "idea" originated from some other member here on MR, years ago !

Credit goes where credit is due !

I do NOT remember who the MR member is.

And very specifically, Apple needs to add something to App Store preview for each app, that indentifies whether the checkbox has been marked off OR NOT by the App Dev.
 
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johannnn

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Nov 20, 2009
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There are so many things outside of the Apple eco system it beggars belief.
If that's your choice fine but I think its the worst advice you can give somebody. But ho about, "Do your research and use what works for you". Most people in the real world know you can't get by with just Apple products.
What's wrong with Apple's apps? I use them as well. I don't like the snooping that most other companies are involved in.
 
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Braderunner

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Oct 2, 2015
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There are so many things outside of the Apple eco system it beggars belief.
If that's your choice fine but I think its the worst advice you can give somebody. But ho about, "Do your research and use what works for you". Most people in the real world know you can't get by with just Apple products.
How is that advice?
 
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katbel

macrumors 6502a
Aug 19, 2009
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This is why I don't trust these Mail apps. Apple Mail app has a lot of issues but at least we are not sold and spied on , beside from the usuals...:rolleyes:
 
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1144557

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Sep 13, 2018
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RE: "The report serves as a good reminder to review the privacy policies of apps that you use."

I disagree 100% !

Apple needs to add something new to App Submittals, a checkbox that says "Collects NO User Data".

If an App Dev checks it off, & the app is approved & later found to violate the term, it should be permanently removed from the App Store !

BTW, the Collects NO User Data "idea" originated from some other member here on MR, years ago !

Credit goes where credit is due !

I do NOT remember who the MR member is.

And very specifically, Apple needs to add something to App Store preview for each app, that indentifies whether the checkbox has been marked off OR NOT by the App Dev.

Its a great idea, someone needs to submit it to Apple.

But I think the major issue is most all apps collect SOME type of data. Even if it's just anonymous metrics how you use the app (time of day, how long, etc) Mostly harmless stuff that helps make the app better and goes nowhere except to the developer.

I think it would have to be far more specific like certifying that your data is not sold or transferred to any 3rd party except the developer of the app you are using.


If you're sending anything unencrypted over email and think someone else isn't reading it you're an idiot.

That's not the point. Someone should not be unknowingly subjected to having their data/metrics sold off regardless of what servers that email goes through.

And even worse should not have to figure out how to opt out which average Joe wont know is there buried in some menu. It's slimy, bottom line there. It should be opt in if you want, opt out by default- hell maybe charge a fee if oyu want to opt out then since you get the benefits and not the data collection. That's fine.

It also gets you more spam when these big companies/retailers get your data; not something anyone signed up for.
 
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Justanotherfanboy

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Jul 3, 2018
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There are so many things outside of the Apple eco system it beggars belief.
If that's your choice fine but I think its the worst advice you can give somebody. But ho about, "Do your research and use what works for you". Most people in the real world know you can't get by with just Apple products.
I think you’re misinterpreting the post you’re responding to.

I greatly doubt that they meant they never use facebook or play games, etc. since those aren’t native apps.
Far, far more likely they’re saying- it makes sense to not use a “free” mail app, web browser, measuring app, stocks app, weather app, etc. that may harvest data and all that... when those apps are already provided by Apple, & we know that they are NOT scraping & selling data.

Most, if not all, people (presumably living in the real world, though I’m unsure why we’re needing to mention that- this is the ONLY world that I’m aware of) would absolutely be able to get by just fine, using Safari & Mail rather than Edison & Firefox, or whatever.
 
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redpandadev

macrumors regular
Jun 3, 2014
246
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This is exactly why I haven’t used a third party email app. While there are features I’d love vs Apple’s app, I simply don’t trust anyone besides Apple to not sell/spy on me. I’d happily pay for an app that doesn’t collect any data, but not totally sure I’d trust it even if it was offered.
 
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SBlue1

macrumors 68000
Oct 17, 2008
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(edited for typos)

But why disagree? I am not a dev but if I use a free service I expect the devs to make money somehow to keep on making apps. I mean you can pay for an app if you don't want to be monetized in any way and then I would be pissed. But the app is free which should tell you something about how the devs are getting paid and the app itself tells you it collects and sells data.

You can't eat the cake and keep it at the same time.
 
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