Yahoo still scanning emails to sell data to advertisers

A recent Wall Street Journal report has found that Yahoo still scans email for data which can be sold to advertisers. The move impacts 200 million AOL and Yahoo email accounts. Owned by Oath, the email scanning program provides service to advertisers to search and analyse for consumer data.

Even emails in Yahoo's premium email service which comes with a monthly fee are subject to the analysis. However, the option to opt out is provided in Yahoo's Ad Interest Manager for users who choose to do so. The algorithms for Oath also sorts the emails according to consumer preferences and will then place advertisements that are frequently searched by them. This in return aids advertisers in reaching out to a bigger yet specific target audience.

According to TechCrunch, despite the exclusion of some sensitive content such as health and medical information, it is currently unclear on whether or not other sensitive data such as bank transfers and stock receipts are being scanned.

The move also prompted e-commerce companies such as Amazon from including fully-itemised receipts in emails sent to customers to ensure that data would not be accessible. This was because Yahoo had mined users' emails to find out what products they had bought online.

The move comes at a time where the act of scanning emails for data sold to advertisers is generally frowned upon in the technology space. That being said, Oath’s vice president of data, measurements and insights Doug Sharp said in the WSJ report that email scanning is one of the most effective methods for a company to improve ad targeting. But he added that it only applies to commercial emails and users have the right to not be included in the scanning.

In addition to the email scanning, Yahoo Mail’s privacy policy also has a “manual review” subject which allows certain Oath employees to access the inboxes, according to TechCrunch.

Marketing has contacted Yahoo for comment.

Most recently, Yahoo Messenger discontinued as the brand aims to “focus on building and introducing new, exciting communications tools that better fit consumer needs.” With no replacement product available for Yahoo Messenger, Yahoo is currently experimenting with new services and apps.

The move comes almost a year after Yahoo’s acquisition. Currently, Yahoo is part of Oath, is owned by Verizon Communications after a US$4.48 billion acquisition a year ago.

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