RapLeaf is a company that ties personal data to email addresses, boasting that they have information on 80% of US email addresses. Rapleaf aggregates and sells segmented data–like age, gender, zip codes, and even stuff like your level of education or personal interests–that’s explicitly tied to email addresses. The advertisers who buy this data use it to tailor their marketing (like ads and emails) to users’ interests. They can also analyze this data to create sophisticated profiles of users’ behavior and preferences.
How it works:
RapLeaf gathers data about consumers from a variety of sources: buying it from other companies, surveys, public records like voter files and marriage licenses, and even their own customers. When you log into a website that uses RapLeaf, that website makes a request to RapLeaf’s databases for whatever information RapLeaf has collected about your email address. (The website may also send RapLeaf any new information it has collected about you!) A tracking cookie containing that data, except your email address, is downloaded onto the your computer. When you browse to other websites that work with RapLeaf, the data in that cookie can influence what content a website shows to you.
Rapleaf is notorious for making extremely detailed personal profiles. Unlike many of the other trackers we profile, RapLeaf does not anonymize the data it collects about you–they know they’re dealing with you specifically–so they or their customers can associate your email address with whatever other information has been collected about you online. Any company with a list of email addresses can buy whatever information RapLeaf has for those email addresses, and you could be on that list. Rapleaf got in trouble for selling data about people’s reading habits and other personal info to the Maine GOP for election targeting.
Rapleaf was also caught collecting and selling people’s unique Facebook and MySpace IDs to advertisers, which created an opportunity for advertisers to gather even more personal information about these users from social networks. This behavior subsequently got Rapleaf kicked off Facebook.
How can RapLeaf benefit me?
Besides RapLeaf’s goal of making it easier for advertisers to serve more relevant content to users, some nifty utilities like Rapportive and etacts make use of this data to populate the information they display to their users. (Many of those utilities, in turn, have confirmed they don’t share any information back to RapLeaf.)
Read more about some of the other trackers DNTMe is now blocking: