Going Public On Anonymous Data

Debate over the alleged scraping of email inboxes by app providers continues to simmer. One company, Foxintelligence, strenuously denies that it sells personal data to third parties or in any way invades consumer privacy with its Cleanfox app.

“We believe in a model in which the service is free and the user is not the product,” writes Cleanfox CEO Edouard Nattée, founder and CEO, in an email to MediaPost.

To backtrack, Motherboard published an article last week titled “How Big Companies Spy On Your Emails,” alleging that Edison Mail and other email cleanup apps were selling data scraped from inboxes.

One might have inferred from the headline that the data is personal, although the article makes clear it is not. Edison and Foxintelligence both say everything is anonymous.

Nattée says his firm “creates and resells anonymized and aggregated statistics, like any survey institute does.”

He adds that the company is “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.”



Furthermore, the firm has never engaged in the practice of “the pseudonymization of data, that is to say, assigning a unique identifier to each user,” he contends. “It is therefore impossible to link Foxintelligence statistics to any user. We do not sell any data that will be used for advertising targeting purposes.” 

Nattée says his company has “always been completely transparent on the business model of Cleanfox and Foxintelligence. Nothing is hidden in illegible pages (in the) Privacy Policy or Terms of Use. On the contrary, the business model is clearly and simply indicated when the user gives us his consent.”

He adds that “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).”

That seems pretty definitive, but it is likely that the debate will continue, given the overheated climate regarding privacy.

Security Boulevard comments that while the data being gathered by Edison “is allegedly anonymized, true anonymization is an extremely high standard that companies don’t always live up to.”

In addition, some privacy advocates might object even to use of anonymized data for any purpose whatsoever.

Motherboard quoted Florian Cleyet-Merle, chief operating officer of Foxintelligence, as saying: "From a higher perspective, we believe crowd-sourced transaction data has a transformational power both for consumers and for companies and that a marketplace where value can be created for both sides without making any compromise on privacy is possible."

For its part, Edison Mail told 9to5 Mac: “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.”

The company added that it “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.” 

Motherboard wrote that Edison is only “one of several companies that offer free email apps which then sell anonymized or pseudonymised data derived from users' inboxes.”

Next story loading loading..