A few years back, Unroll.me promised to help users unsubscribe from email newsletters en masse, for free. It turned out they were scanning users’ email and selling data—for example, selling data from Lyft emails to Uber. That is why you should pay money for Leave Me Alone, an email unsubscription service that doesn’t sell user data.
How it works
Leave Me Alone works like many email management tools: It gives you a special inbox built specifically for clearing out mail. Specifically, it presents you with emails that you can unsubscribe from: newsletters, promotions, mailing lists, search alerts, etc. This includes emails that don’t have obvious unsubscription links.
Instead of an archive button, each email has a toggle next to it. Click the toggle, and Leave Me Alone tries to unsubscribe you. It does this without taking you to another webpage or making you fill out forms. It often, but not always, succeeds.
The Leave Me Alone inbox hides one-on-one emails, and it lumps all messages from one sender together. (Sometimes it’s too simplistic; all my Indiegogo updates from multiple projects are lumped together, and I could only choose to quit all or none of them.) You can filter and sort senders by recipient (if you use address forwarding) and recency. You can also look at the senders that most other users unsubscribe from.
You can’t open any email inside Leave Me Alone. You can’t even archive it. You can only unsubscribe. The point is to focus on that one action, without distraction. To benefit from the service, you should churn through several pages of messages at once.
What it costs
When you test out Leave Me Alone, you get five free unsubscriptions. After that, you can buy credits for more, ranging from 50 unsubscriptions for $2.50, to 300 for $10.50. (If Leave Me Alone fails to unsubscribe you, you get your credit back.) Before you purchase unsubscription credits, Leave Me Alone tells you how many emails you might be able to unsubscribe some, so you can buy the right amount of unsubscriptions. There’s also a team plan, for $6 per month per user.
If you need to unsubscribe from 50 mailing lists, this seems like a reasonable price. More importantly, it’s the only price. Unlike Unroll.me, Leave Me Alone is not also collecting your data.
What data it collects
By using Leave Me Alone, you give the app permission to scan all your email. This is an intimate level of access, and one that Unroll.me taught many people to think more carefully about. But by our estimation, Leave Me Alone does not abuse the privilege.
On its security page, the service lists the data that it does collect and use: It collects “statistical data” on which senders show up in the most inboxes, and how recipients treat it: how often a particular sender gets read, or unsubscribed, or marked as spam. Leave Me Alone says it anonymizes and aggregates this data, such that no single user’s habits or subscriptions could be identified. You can opt out of this data collection in the settings. And at any time you can deactivate your account, which will delete all your data and revoke the service’s API access to your email.
Over email, Leave Me Alone co-founder James Ivings clarified to Lifehacker that the service sells none of its user data, even anonymized. (Ivings is updating the terms of service to spell this out.) You’re the customer, not the service.
The question, then, is whether it’s worth $10.50 to unsubscribe from a bunch of newsletters. If you find yourself spending actual time “managing” your subscriptions, or you have to go to a new unsubscribe page every day, or you have to hunt through your spam folder for lots of misplaced email, then this seems worth it.
But try it before you buy it. You might find that after a few easy unsubscriptions, you don’t have much unwanted email. You might find that you’re still on hundreds of mailing lists based on your online shopping, donations, political contributions, Kickstarter pledges, Kayak searches, service subscriptions, and memberships. If there’s not that much to unsubscribe from, then delete your account. But you might get hooked on that unsubscribe button, like you’re zapping bugs, and saving yourself a lot of inbox clutter in the future.