Verizon's Yahoo Selling User Email Data To Advertisers: Report

Yahoo is scanning emails on the hunt for more user data to sell to advertisers, The Wall Street Journal reports, claiming that Verizon's subsidiary Oath which owns the company is now pitching such a service to marketers. The firm claims it has access to over 200 million Yahoo Mail and AOL Mail inboxes and can scan them for certain keywords or for the purpose of analyzing more general behavior trends that could be useful to ad industry professionals. Scanning the contents of emails breaks precedent with other companies in the field as even the world's largest digital advertising firm — Google — refuses to return to that practice, citing privacy concerns.

Alphabet's subsidiary has still been scanning Gmail inboxes for years and only stopped doing so last year, as per its own disclosure. Google found itself in hot water over the matter last month after it came to light that a number of third-party developers are still able to obtain user consent to look through the contents of their emails and were even conducting such scans manually in some cases. Yahoo has reportedly been practicing automated email scanning for over a decade and became more proficient at it as years went by, with Oath's decision to continue the practice being in line with the company's very mission - to become an advertising juggernaut capable of taking on Google and Facebook.

Oath already disclosed the practice as part of its revised terms of use earlier this year but did so in a low-key manner. Yahoo Mail users are presently able to opt out of personalized advertising and the service has been revised in order to be in compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation which went into effect in the European Union three months back. Oath is even said to have embraced Yahoo Mail's reputation of a go-to service for unwanted promotional emails that users often resort to when websites and other online services ask them for an email and they don't want to have their primary address spammed. In some private conversations with marketers, the firm pointed to this trend as a unique opportunity for analyzing what kind of products and services consumers subscribe to, as per the same report. The value of that data would still be extremely limited, less Oath was able to reliably link it with its owners, though doing so would likely raise additional privacy concerns.

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