Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that’s taken over our lives.
Please look up.
I know what you see might look like a ceiling, but it’s actually a rock.
I know this because I’ve just read a post on Medium written by Unroll.me co-founder Perri Chase.
This is a rebuttal of sorts after her co-founder and current CEO Jojo Hedaya found himself apologizing to angry users. It was revealed, you see, that Unroll.me — a service that cleans up your email — had been scanning users emails and selling Lyft receipts received by customers to, well, Uber.
“It was heartbreaking to see that some of our users were upset to learn about how we monetize our free service,” Hedaya wrote. For some, it was heartbreaking to read what appeared to be the sort of slightly stinky unctuousness that can be typical of Silicon Valley CEOs.
Chase is no longer with the company, which didn’t immediately respond to our request for comment on her Medium post. But she has a message for anyone who’s not happy with Unroll.me’s practices or shocked that it might sell their data to other parties.
“Look, respectfully, you have clearly been living under a rock because if you look at the entire tech ecosystem — It’s f…ing gross,” Chase writes, helpfully.
Ah, sometimes the true grossness is revealed only when controversy strikes.
Chase, though, explains: “I encourage you to go read the terms of service of every app you opt in to in order to see what rights they have over your data. This is not new. Is it good? Is it bad? Is that the point?”
I fear that some under-rock-livers might think it is the point. They might wail that the terms of service are deliberately written to be obfuscatory.
Of course, Chase is right that humans are all too ready to believe that these nice changing-the-world tech people really do want to give them something for nothing, as opposed to give themselves a lot of money. There’s greed on both sides here.
Chase points to Gmail and many other online services that also grab your data and make money out of it. There’s a tiny difference in their methods and those of Slice — Unroll.me’s parent company.
Google and the like are collecting your data and teasing advertisers that you are the perfect person to whom they should present their products. Slice, on the other hand, takes your data and sells it to other companies, which can do with it what they want.
In both cases, the data is anonymized. But the more data that’s out there, the more a clever company can work out who you actually are.
You might enjoy these words from Slice’s website. Slice boasts that it leers at 4.2 million receipts a day, all nestled in people’s email inboxes. “Data is reported daily at the item level, by zip code and across all retailers, all categories, on any and all devices on which a purchase was made. This is high-definition data.” Your personal world, for sale in HD.
The real glory of Chase’s screed, however, is the moral parsing. In essence, Hedaya is the nicest man on Earth, while Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is a devil who doesn’t bother wearing a disguise.
Uber didn’t respond to several requests for comment Wednesday morning on Chase’s post.
“Travis Kalanick is out of control and no one can stop him. No one except a board who refuses to hold him accountable for his disgusting behavior. Yeah. As a woman I think he is disgusting. As a founder, the truth is I’m like DAMN.”
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Damn? Or, rather, DAMN?
Chase adds: “That guy is willing to do whatever it takes and I have a mild amount of envy that I’m not a shittier human willing to go to those lengths to be successful.” She adds that she would, of course, never do what he does.
Did I mention that Chase is now a life coach?
Her post is, indeed, a life-lesson. It shows that learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.
“We built Unroll.me as decent humans and it has to our best efforts always been run that way,” Chase insists.
It’s just everyone else in the valley who’s truly, truly awful.
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