A new class action lawsuit has accused Yahoo Inc. of unlawfully intercepting the contents of emails sent to Yahoo! Mail accounts from non-Yahoo! Mail accounts. Plaintiff Brian Pincus claims Yahoo illegally reviews email contents with the purpose of using the information to make money from targeted advertising, data collection and other services.
In his class action lawsuit, which was filed Friday in California federal court, Pincus argues that Yahoo’s information-gathering tactics violate California’s Invasion of Privacy Act, which prohibits the interception of communications without consent of all involved parties. He seeks injunctive relief and statutory damages.
In June, Yahoo allegedly required its users to upgrade to a new platform, which allows Yahoo to review every email sent or received through Yahoo! Mail. According to the class action lawsuit, “Yahoo admits that the scanning is not limited to virus, malware and spam protection, but also enables the creation of digital dossiers populated with sensitive personal information to enhance Yahoo’s ability to serve targeted advertising and increase its revenues.”
Following this upgrade, Yahoo! Mail users John Kevranian and Tammy Zapata filed a class action lawsuit, arguing that Yahoo’s intentional interception of email contents is not necessary for the operation of the Yahoo! Mail system and therefore amounts to a breach of privacy in violation of California law.
These “digital dossiers” allegedly include users’ names and email addresses as well as information gathered from cookies and tracking pixels. Yahoo uses this information to serve its users with targeted advertising. According to the class action lawsuit, advertising currently accounts for 75 percent of Yahoo’s total revenue.
Putative Class Members will include any U.S. residents who are not subscribed to Yahoo services but have sent emails to or received emails from a Yahoo! Mail user with a @yahoo.com, @ymail.com or @rocketmail.com email address since June 1, 2013. According to the class action lawsuit, California’s Invasion of Privacy Act provides for injunctive relief to permanently bar Yahoo from further violations and statutory damages of at least $5,000 for each Class Member.
Pincus is represented by Frederic S. Fox, Donald R. Hall and David A. Straite of Kaplan Fox & Kilsheimer LLP.
The Yahoo! Mail Spying Class Action Lawsuit is Brian Pincus v. Yahoo Inc., Case No. 13-cv-5326, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose Division.
UPDATE: On Feb. 5, 2015, plaintiffs filed a motion for Class certification in the consolidated Yahoo email scanning class action lawsuit (In re: Yahoo Mail Litigation).
UPDATE 2: On Jan. 7, 2016, plaintiffs asked a judge to grant preliminary approval to a proposed class action settlement that requires Yahoo to make several changes to its website and email servers.
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Various Trademarks held by their respective owners
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