Judge OK’s Lawsuit Accusing Yahoo of Intercepting Emails

A California judge has given the go-ahead for a US-wide class action suit to be brought against Yahoo, accusing it of intercepting emails sent from non-Yahoo Mail subscribers and scanning them to improve targeted advertising.

US district judge Lucy Koh, a veteran of tech cases including long-running disputes between Apple and Samsung, said that those who sent emails to or received emails from Yahoo Mail users after 2 October 2011 could sue as one group under the Stored Communications Act.

She added that California dwelling non-Yahoo emailers who sent or received mail after 2 October 2012 could also sue as one group under the California Invasion of Privacy Act.

Plaintiffs in the case are estimating that one million non-Yahoo Mail subscribers may be eligible to file as part of the class action suit, meaning Yahoo could be in for a sizeable fine, according to Reuters.

The web giant is accused of copying the entirety of non-Yahoo users’ emails, extracting keywords, links and attachments, classifying them and then analyzing them to create targeted advertising for Yahoo users.

It should be added that Yahoo’s filters at this stage also pick out malware and spam.

Yahoo requires its own users to agree to its “interception, scanning, analysis, and storage of email in exchange for Yahoo Mail services,” but is accused of failing to obtain clear consent from non-Yahoo subscribers and of keeping the matter quiet in its external comms.

Koh apparently threw out Yahoo’s argument that some plaintiffs effectively gave their consent to its scanning by continuing to email Yahoo users after they found out about the targeted ad system.

She is said to have refused a similar class action suit against Google because it was harder to tell which users had consented in that case.

The plaintiffs are seeking an injunction to stop the interception of their emails and damages.

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