What is Rapleaf and What Do They Know About You?


If you look at Rapleaf’s site, they describe their business in the following manner: “Rapleaf is a San Francisco-based startup with an ambitious vision: we want every person to have a meaningful, personalized experience – whether online or offline. We want you see the right content at the right time, every time. We want you to get better, more personalized service. To achieve this, we help Fortune 2000 companies gain insight into their customers, engage them more meaningfully, and deliver the right message at the right time. We also help consumers understand their online footprint.”

According to an article by Emily Steel from the Wall Street Journal, Rapleaf is building a database with all of our information in it.  They do this by tapping into voter-registration files and looking at our social networking, shopping and real estate purchases.  According to that same article, “Rapleaf says it never discloses people’s names to clients for online advertising.”

I’ve seen blogs that consider this “scare journalism”.  Are these articles meant to scare us or are they something we need to worry about?

Here is what The Wall Street Journal found:

  • Rapleaf knows your real names and email addresses.
  • It can build rich profiles by tapping voter-registration files, shopping histories, social-networking activities and more. In effect, it can built the ultimate dossier on you.
  • Rapleaf sells pretty elaborate data that includes household income, age, political leaning, and even more granular details such as your interest in get-rich-quick schemes.
  • According to the WSJ, Rapleaf segments people into 400 categories.
  • Rapleaf says it doesn’t transmit personally identifiable data for online advertising, but the WSJ found that is not the case. Rapleaf shared a unique Facebook ID to at least 12 companies and a unique MySpace ID number to six companies. Any sharing was accidental, the company said.
  • Politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, are using Rapleaf. It has provided data to 10 political campaigns