Yahoo Faces Email Scanning Privacy Class Action Lawsuit

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New York, NY: Yahoo is facing a proposed Internet Privacy class action lawsuit alleging the Internet search company illegally reads, copies and analyzes emails in direct violation of California's Invasion of Privacy Act and the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

In the lawsuit, John Kevranian and Tammy Zapata allege Yahoo accesses Yahoo Mail users' emails in order to make money on targeted advertising, profiling, data collection and other services.

According to the lawsuit, entitled Kevranian et al. v. Yahoo Inc., case number 5:13-cv-04547, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Yahoo put in place a new email system which became the default interface for all Yahoo users in May 2011. At the time, Yahoo said the system could "look for keywords and links to further protect you from spam, surface photos and in time, serve users with Internet-based advertising,"the lawsuit states. After a short grace period, all Yahoo email users were switched to the new version.

"The emails that are exchanged between Yahoo Mail users and non-Yahoo Mail users contain business and/or private communications, messages and/or attachments,"the lawsuit states.

"These communications may contain sensitive and/or proprietary content, and are not unlike those messages and packages that are delivered by the United States Postal Service,"according to the class action. "Plaintiffs and members of the class have an expectation of privacy for the content of their electronic communications."

The lawsuit also states that Yahoo told its email account holders that the new email search capability looks for patterns, keywords and files in users' communications, and that the automated system would scan and analyze all incoming and outgoing email, instant messages and other communications content sent and received from a user's account in order to personalize his or her experience.

"In employing the above described device, plaintiffs and the class allege that Yahoo intentionally intercepts and reviews the content of their electronic communications for financial gain,"the complaint states.

The plaintiffs allege that the terms "scan"or "scanning"Yahoo uses in relation to its activities, amounts to reading, attempting to read, learning of the content or meaning of, recording, and eavesdropping on the communications sent by them and class members to Yahoo Mail users.

"Yahoo's acquisition and use of content from plaintiffs' and class members' email sent to Yahoo Mail users, and those emails sent from Yahoo Mail users to plaintiffs and class members, is not necessary to the transmission of email or to the operation the electronic communication service known as Yahoo Mail,"the lawsuit states.

The plaintiffs are represented by Ara Jabagchourian and Brian M. Schnarr of Cotchett Pitre & McCarthy LLP.

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Reader Comments

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My yahoo always seen strange behavior

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I was in my email one day when I noticed that someone was scanning contents of my saved files and then my saved emails. I was scared that someone was in email, so I signed out of my email; thinking this would cut them off.

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