Yahoo has been hit with a new class-action privacy lawsuit which claims that the company is effectively intercepting and reading emails of users as it scans incoming emails for keywords in order to deliver more targeted ads. Google too was hit with a similar lawsuit recently and just last week it couldn’t convince a judge that its keyword scanning in Gmail doesn’t violate wiretap laws. There’s a difference between these two cases though, Google was sued by Gmail users and non-users, where Yahoo hasn’t been sued by those who use its service, but by those who claim they’re filing the suit on behalf of other Americans that have sent email to Yahoo addresses. The claim is that since these users don’t use Yahoo’s email service, they didn’t agree to keyword scanning.
Google defended its case by claiming that scanning emails to better serve targeted ads is a standard element of its business model. It also said that if someone sends an email to a Gmail user, they implicitly understand that the email is going to be scanned and that the sender is voluntarily giving their information to a third party, which negates the right to absolute privacy. Yahoo may go for a similar defense, given the fact that the argument of both cases is essentially the same. However, if things don’t go too well for Yahoo in the courtroom, it will have to stop scanning emails and also pay damages under U.S. and California law, at least that’s what the plaintiffs are pushing for.