Yahoo Scans Emails and Sells Data to Advertisers

in privacy •  4 months ago

Data tracking and collection has been used for decades. The main reason is to make money by attracting advertisers with data they can use to better sell their products. Just surfing the web allows data to be siphoned, but there are more questionable techniques being used to collect that data through various services offered by tech giants. And users aren't told about it. Our data is simply used without our consent.

pixabay, pixabay

We've found out this year about the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal, and recently about Google paying Mastercard millions to get data on offline purchases in retail stores to attract advertisers. Now Yahoo and AOL is in the spotlight for scanning emails.

Verizon, who owns Yahoo and AOL, is offering a new service to advertisers to keep the money flowing onto their sites. The over 200 million email inboxes are being scanned and searched to find clues about goos and services they bought or might be interested in buying.

It might be shocking, but it's not the first time this has happened. Google was doing this before, but stopped doing it last year. Google is still getting tons of personal data from internet users, so they aren't the "good guys" just because they stopped. It just means they can get user data without scanning emails, unlike Yahoo and AOL which have less access to suer data since Google is the #1 search engine in the world.

But it's also not the first time Yahoo has been caught scanning emails to make money with advertisers. In 2016 Yahoo reached a settlement of $4 million in a class action lawsuit for violating federal wiretap laws. Yahoo didn't admit to any wrongdoing as a result. Instead of using the exact same tactic, they just changed up one part. Rather than scanning the emails in transit, they now scan the emails once arriving in people's inboxes.

The scans look at received emails and then categorize users accordingly. If you have confirmation emails about car loans, then you get places into a car owner group. Brokerage trade confirmation emails get you categorized as an investor. Flight confirmations get you labeled as a frequent flier. Then profiles are created for your interests, and they track your activity across the internet to deliver tailored ads on other sites that are more likely to get a sale.

A VP for a Verizon company that acquired Yahoo Mail, Oath, acts as if users owe companies something for getting free email services:

"Email is an expensive system. I think it’s reasonable and ethical to expect the value exchange, if you’ve got this mail service and there is advertising going on."

Paying users with Yahoo premium email service have their emails scanned as well, but they can opt out. If only they knew their emails were being scanned or could easily see it. Instead, the option to opt out is put in the "Ad Interest Manager" section, instead of an obvious place like Settings.

Yahoo is desperate to keep some advertisers and make money, despite it's failing popularity as an email provider. With only 19% of people aged 18 to 29 using Yahoo Mail, this privacy issue could cause them to plummet even further. Earning back users doesn't seem to matter to Yahoo though, since making money is driving their behavior to scan emails in the first place.


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It's sad that they have to resort to this. However it's not surprising really. Yahoo was my first email account and I still have it but I use it for all of the useless junk that I don't want them to access my real information on. These companies are just struggling to stay relevant though. With lots of companies offering different services, archaic giants like Yahoo just need to do whatever they can to stay afloat. I think that in the next year or two they will sell their company.

It is amusing though, when people give a Yahoo email address we kind of stereotype them to be non technical savvy folks. It's not always true but that's a joke we have at work.


Yes, or hotmail. What, you use hotmail? How lame... lol. My first email was hotmail, I still have it.

They sent out an email in advance letting us know that they would be snooping and selling. I deleted hundreds of emails I had been saving immediately after. Later on in the year I will be using a paid email service that offers encryption and move most of what I can over to it and keep the yahoo for stupid shit.


Heard of protonmail? No need to pay for encryption ;)

What..? This is ridiculous... surely we would be able to sue yahoo for infringement? Unless we agree to it in the 30 pages of small print...

I wonder if these huge tech companies with huge traffic also make blockchain money from us constantly using their pages... from all of those billions of likes etc..


Yes it's in Oath's small print that no one read ;)

I've had my yahoo mail account since High School. I rarely use it these days. I think it's just too crowded with alerts from the various social media I have. I can still view yahoo mail through my gmail account.

Nothing on the internet is private. Yahoo are probably getting desperate because of their relative decline. I find the yahoo search engine to be fairly good but I use Google and Bing more these days.


Ye, they are desperate, and Google is getting there too with their deal with Matercard.

That's why we believe in decentralization of the web...

Posted using Partiko Android


The internet was decentralized at it's inception. I think it still is for the most part ;)


It needs to be free of regulation or any non-technical interference too. It should be internet, its builders and users.

Posted using Partiko Android

I dont know why anyone should be using their yahoo emails anymore. naturally they will try to mop up on the way down. if the data breach is not enough, atleast we should remember that yahoo that company we remember is no more


All the companies are not what they once were :/

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I rarely go into my yahoo mail but thank God I only use it for junk mail. Yahoo won't get too much on me. LOL Very sad that they feel a need to do it. Thanks @krnel


Yup they are losing a piece of the pie, like Google is too

Never used Yahoo, really happy i didn't by the sounds of it. The data should be broken up into small pieces.


The data from emails? Or what you mean?


Really data from everything.

Really bad!! They should be broken up into small pieces!


Small them to bits for what they do, or as some antitrust monopoly that's too powerful?

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