The service is owned by parent company Slice Technologies. A couple of years ago, it was discovered that unroll.me was providing Slice with information it collected on user purchases from scanning their emails. Slice was, of course, selling this information. As the Verge points out in its summary of the issue, “Unroll.me was caught selling receipt data to Uber so the ride hailing service could better target customers who might be using its competitor Lyft more often.” Now, under normal circumstances, this type of behavior wouldn’t really ruffle feathers. I mean, most people understand that free services are not really “free” and that the price we often pay is through the monetization of our data by the companies providing the service. However, this situation was just a bit different than that.
See, the problem (and here’s where we’re all going to learn something) was that Unroll.me, a year before any of this happened, sent messages to users who declined to provide permission for the company to scan its inbox and gave what the FTC determined were misleading statements. Specifically, they provided messages saying “Don’t worry, this is just to watch for those pesky newsletters, we’ll never touch your personal stuff.” The FTC determined that this behavior violated privacy disclosure rules and amounted to misrepresentation since the company was, in fact, collecting and using and selling customer data.