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

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.

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.

Tag: Edison

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
8 weeks ago
If you don't pay for the product, you are the product.
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
8 weeks ago
Free, has a price.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
8 weeks ago
And this is why I stick to Apple's official apps.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
8 weeks ago


Most people in the real world know you can't get by with just Apple products.

I guess I'm not most people as I get by just fine with only Apple products (hardware & software).
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
8 weeks ago
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.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
8 weeks ago
TANSTAAFL
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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