It's only been a month since the Gmail privacy scandal, and now Yahoo Mail - remember that? - is facing its own criticisms for a similar practice.
The summary of the Google case is that, while users had consented to share their data with third parties, it wasn't clear that it would actually be humans reading the emails. According to the Wall Street Journal (paywalled), Yahoo is doing the same thing.
A leaked Yahoo sales pitch revealed the shady practice, describing how the company collects and sells the data it collects from email accounts.
Theresa Payton, White House CIO during the Bush administration, told Digital Trends, "This isn't a new practice. What they do is scan emails, and then group similar users together for targeting.
"For example, if you have receipts from purchases you've made on Netflix or Hulu or Amazon Prime, they will group you and other email users that have similar receipts into a group, and then sell your data to media companies, TV outlets, and the movie industry."
Payton says that technology advances make this more of a concern than it was even a few years ago. Analytics platforms can now collect and handle much more data than they could in the past.
The most sinister aspect, though, is the human one. Yahoo's privacy policies (posted by its parent company, Oath) make it very clear that humans are reading some emails:
‘In certain use cases, we run automated algorithms on commercial communications to create generic templates of such documents (e.g., using common language to identify the elements of an airline receipt)... We may also manually review certain communications…
‘When users click on the Spam and Not Spam buttons, information is sent to our anti-spam team or other spam compliance service providers for manual review, and aspects of these messages may be shared with the sender to reduce spam.'
But is this really a concern? No-one really uses their Ymail account for personal emails any more, do they? Well, to Yahoo, that's actually a good thing.
"They actually talked about how a lot of people use their platform to forward their spam mail to," Payton told Digital Trends. "So, they purely use it as an email address to hand out and let a bunch of marketing material go to. And that could be super helpful to marketers."
The good news is that there's a way to stop Yahoo - and Verizon, AOL and others that are grouped together under the Oath banner - from mining your spam email. Just click ‘Opt Out' on the Ad Interest Manager page.
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