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Yahoo And AOL Read Your Emails To Collect Data For Targeted Ads

by Abeerah Hashim
Yahoo and AOL scan emails

Advertising through emails has long been a successful marketing strategy. Everyone who has an email address will know what it is like to be barraged with unsolicited or spam ads. Previously, most of the email service providers would snoop through your mailboxe for clues in how to target ad campaigns. Eventually after customer’s hit back many providers halted this practice. However it would seem that Yahoo and AOL are still following this old methodology. Reportedly, their parent company – Oath – still looks for your data to sell to the advertisers.

Yahoo and AOL Continue To Scan Your Emails

Lately, The Wall Street Journal made some interesting revelations about how the two email service providers continue to snoop into  users’ mailboxes. According to their report, Yahoo and AOL still scan your emails for targeted ads. Precisely, they look for your data to sell to advertisers.

Oath is the parent company of Yahoo and AOL, and a subsidiary of Verizon Communications. The firm may scan more than 200 million AOL and Yahoo users’ inboxes to collect data. They justify this act by calling it an attempt to provide you with targeted ads. They have also clearly mentioned it in their privacy policy.

“Oath may use device IDs, cookies, and other signals, including information obtained from third parties, to associate accounts and/or devices with you… Oath analyzes and stores all communications content, including email content from incoming and outgoing mail.  This allows us to deliver, personalize and develop relevant features, content, advertising, and Services.”

Below is part of their terms about how they share your data with advertisers. They claim that they do not share any PII data of the users.

“We may share aggregated or pseudonymous information (including demographic information) with partners, such as publishers, advertisers, measurement analytics, apps, or other companies… We do not share information that personally identifies you (personally identifiable information is information like name or email address) with these partners, such as publishers, advertisers, measurement analytics, apps, or other companies.”

Apart from the above excerpt, you can also find their repeated emphasis in using the data for advertising in their privacy policy.

Is Oath The Only Snooper Now?

The practice of collecting data via emails and selling it for adverts has long been abandoned by many tech giants. For instance, Apple, despite mentioning about data collection in its privacy policy, practically never scans users’ emails. Likewise, Microsoft assures that it never reads user emails for ad targeting. Gmail too had announced last year about the halting of this practice. Amidst all these tech giants, Oath’s practice of data collection and selling to the advertisers is quite unnerving.

Why does Oath still plan to utilize this practice?, Doug Sharp, Oath’s VP for Data Management and Insights, told WSJ,

“Email is an expensive system. I think it’s reasonable and ethical to expect the ‘value exchange,’ if you’ve got this mail service and there is advertising going on.”

they go on to say that they always allow their customers to opt-out of this process.

What do you think of this data collection by Oath? Would you continue to use your Yahoo or AOL email despite knowing that they will scan your emails?.

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