As you have no doubt heard, computer analysis Edward Snowden was so appalled by what he deemed to be egregious privacy violations and spying on U.S. Citizens by his employers the CIA and NSA, that he leaked classified information to the press to prove it, then fled to Russia where he remains.
Would he have been happier working at Zillow? No. He would have been just as appalled.
Zillow does not respect your privacy. The lead system at Zillow, through which consumers inquire about listings, surreptitiously records and collects your private communication with Realtors who respond to your inquiry. This isn’t obvious to a typical consumer because of the way Zillow masks where your emails are really going. I’ll try to keep this technical explanation as simple as possible.
How Zillow Plays Games with Email Addresses and Names
When a consumer on Zillow fills out the “I’m interested …” form, the email that arrives is as follows:
From: Zillow <Zillow@email.zillow.com> (this is what Realtors see in the “from” section of the email client)
In the body of the email it says:
New ContactJohn Doe (email@example.com) is contacting you about a property on Zillow:
I am interested in 123 Main St, Austin, TX 78745. Contacted via Zillow.com
The second line above is the default text in the inquiry box. Most consumers don’t type into this box or ask questions, they simply fill in their contact info and click send with the default blurb. A real serious inquiry. (sarcasm intended)
Next, when the Realtor clicks “Reply”, she sees the following in the “to:” section of the email client:
What Zillow does here is cleverly place the consumer’s email address in the “name” section of the send field. Many email clients (the software you use to send and receive email, like Outlook or Yahoo or Gmail) only show the name in this format, not the strange long email address you see after the “name”. Zillow knows this.
The average Realtor is a 57 year old woman. Not tech savvy. When she looks at where the email is going, and sees the email address (placed into the “name” field), she thinks the email address is the destination address of the email. But really, if you look at the long weird email address after the name/email, that is where the email will be delivered, to the Zillow email server.