A Michigan resident has sued the owner of email management company Unroll.me for allegedly violating the federal wiretap law.
Unroll.me, owned by Slice Technologies, helps users to automatically unsubscribe from email lists. Slice also allegedly sells "anonymized" information about people's emails that can be used for profiling and targeting. The company's alleged practices drew widespread attention this week after The New York Timesreported that Uber purchased data from Slice in order to gather competitive intelligence on rival ride-hailing service Lyft.
"Under the disguise of being a consumer friendly 'email management' service, UnrollMe was able to mislead millions of consumers into granting them virtually unfettered access into their private and sensitive email inboxes," Jason Cooper alleges in a class-action complaint filed Wednesday in federal court in San Francisco. "What UnrollMe does not draw attention to is that once it gets access to users’ inboxes, it actually scans their emails, extracts a variety of data points, and then, through its parent company ... sells that data to third parties seeking to profile and target you."
Unroll.me allegedly discloses its practices during the sign-up process, but Cooper alleges that those disclosures are "obfuscated."
"What consumers don’t know -- and what Defendants have thus far successfully obfuscated -- is that by giving UnrollMe access to their emails for the limited purpose of unsubscribing from spam, they have let the fox into the henhouse," the complaint alleges.
After the Times reported on UnrollMe's practices, company CEO Jojo Hedaya blogged that "it was heartbreaking to see that some of our users were upset to learn about how we monetize our free service."
Hedaya also stressed that any data released is "completely anonymous and related to purchases only."
But Cooper alleges in the complaint that anonymized data can be re-identified. "Even if defendants attempted some anonymization technique, they may have overlooked information unique to the consumer," the complaint alleges. "Behind every Lyft email are unique identifiers that can identify each Lyft user."
A Slice representative declined to comment on the complaint.