Thoughts About Superhuman
I use a luxury email service called “Superhuman”. I use it because email makes me anxious and I like to obsess over tools and user experience to help me qualm that anxiety. I quite like using it, because I spend less time working, and more time communicating. I also like that they gave me a personal onboarding when I started using it.
Lately, Superhuman has been in the limelight for using tracking pixels. Until they came into the limelight, they had a feature enables that sent a tiny image with their messages that collected each time and location that the email had been opened. This feature was enabled by default for all new users of Superhuman.
A scathing critique, Superhuman Is Spying On You, was written, talking about how this feature is dangerous and an invasion of privacy. Which, is true. In response, Superhuman changed the default setting of their software to disable this feature, and removed some of the location information from the tracking. Their response was extremely thoughtful for a venture funded Silicon Valley company — which translates to pretty thoughtful with some glaring unexamined assumptions for the rest of us.
However — there’s something in the critique that doesn’t sit right with me. There are companies that are doing exactly this every day for sales and marketing. The author of the otherwise scathing critique glosses over this — in fact, the company where he is Vice President of Partnerships & Community uses these tracking pixels in their sales and marketing emails.
YOU DON’T GET A PASS ON MORALITY JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE DOING SOMETHING FOR A BUSINESS PURPOSE.
There’s a lot to untangle about how using digitally collected information feels -- I’d just like to see the Superhuman conversation expand to include how common this is in sales and marketing, and talk about those ethics as well, rather than it just being passed over.