Judge classifies as class action an email scanning lawsuit against Yahoo

Plaintiffs allege that by scanning emails of people who don't use Yahoo Mail, the company violates federal and California wiretapping laws

Yahoo's new Mail, as pictured on Oct. 18, 2013.
Yahoo's new Mail, as pictured on Oct. 18, 2013.

A lawsuit that alleges Yahoo's email scanning practices are illegal can proceed as a class action complaint, a development that will shine the spotlight on the Yahoo Mail use of messages' content for advertising purposes.

Plaintiffs allege that emails sent to Yahoo Mail users by people who do not have Yahoo Mail accounts are scanned by Yahoo in violation of federal and California wiretapping laws.

In a decision Tuesday evening, Judge Lucy Koh said all U.S. residents who are not Yahoo Mail subscribers but who have sent emails to or received emails from a Yahoo Mail subscriber between Oct. 2, 2011, and now may sue the company.

California residents who are not Yahoo Mail subscribers but who have sent emails to or received emails from a Yahoo Mail subscriber between Oct. 2, 2012, and now may sue the company, according to the judge's filing in the U.S. district court in the northern district of California.

The plaintiffs, who filed for class certification on Feb. 5, allege Yahoo copies the entirety of emails, extracts keywords, and reviews and extracts links and attachments, in violation of the federal Stored Communications Act and California's Invasion of Privacy Act.

Yahoo, in its FAQ on Mail, says that its automated systems scan and analyze all incoming and outgoing messages to detect, among other things, certain keywords, partly to provide interest-based ads but also to detect viruses and malware.

The lawsuit alleges Yahoo provides no mechanism for non-Yahoo Mail users to opt out of Yahoo's scanning practices.

A Yahoo spokeswoman declined to comment.

In her decision, Judge Koh sought to distinguish the case from a previous and similar one over which she presided in 2014 in which she refused to grant class action status on behalf of Gmail and non-Gmail users, because it was too difficult to determine which users agreed to Google's scanning practices.

In Yahoo's case, plaintiffs seek injunctive relief requiring Yahoo to stop scanning the emails of non-Yahoo Mail users without their consent, and to identify everyone with whom Yahoo has shared or sold information or data collected from non-subscribers' emails, according to the court document.

Daniel Girard and Larry D. King, attorneys for the plaintiffs, did not immediately respond to requests to comment.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

Join the CMO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Supporting Association

Blog Posts

If creative, media and technology were bedfellows

It’s become crystal clear that if you’re going to be successful in the ever-shifting marketing landscape, you need to be able to change direction, and fast. Fluidity and agility are key, and that’s why having technology, media and creative playing on the same team is going to be crucial for the successful marketer or agency.

Jason Dooris

CEO and founder, Atomic 212

Why 2017 will herald a resurgence of values-based marketing

It doesn’t take long for predictions to become predictable: The rise and rise of Facebook; advancements in analytics; the normalisation of chatbots; personalisation, programmatic, automation, authenticity… The prediction that’s missing from these lists is that in 2017 we will witness a resurgence of values-based marketing.

Jacqueline Burns

Founder, Market Expertise

Why customer experience driven growth is set to take off

Our overall brand perceptions are invariably shaped by our experiences. And loyal customer relationships can be severed in moments by a negative service interaction.

Not to mention that the full realisation of the "implosion of trust" recorded in the Edelman Trust Barometer 2017 leaves the move to valu...

Walter Adamson

Why 2017 will herald a resurgence of values-based marketing

Read more

loved the Qantas airline and hyundai one

Furqan Bin Rizwan

10 examples of virtual reality marketing in action

Read more

Someone needs a swift kick up the bum for such an idiotic idea.

random

​Why a degree is no longer enough to get you hired as a skilled marketer

Read more

The frequent flyer programs are the new profit machines for airlines all over the world, as they have morphed to be mass marketing machin...

Steve@iFLYflat

Velocity frequent flyers program strong performer in mixed half-year for Virgin

Read more

Hi Jennifer, thanks for sharing these info regarding the digital marketing trends.I've created a related video to this topic, would you m...

Fabio Carry

Predictions: 17 digital marketing trends for 2017

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in