Yahoo must face a class action suit for email snooping, says US judge

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By Larry Banks

A judge in the US has ordered Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) to face class-action lawsuit that accuses the company of illegally intercepting the content of emails sent to Yahoo Mail users from non-Yahoo mail accounts, and using the information to boost its advertising revenue.

In a decision this week, US Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California, said that people who sent to or received emails from Yahoo Mail customers since October 2nd 2011, could sue as one group under the Stored Communications Act for alleged violations of privacy.

Yahoo accused of copying and analysing emails

Koh also said a class of non-Yahoo mail subscribers in California since October 2nd 2012 may also sue as a group under the Invasion of Privacy act of the state.

Non-Yahoo Mail account holds have accused the search giant of copying and analysing their emails including attachments and keywords, in order to create targeted advertising for more than 275 million Yahoo Mail users.

Those people sought an injunction barring the interceptions as well as damages. In 2014, Yahoo generated almost 80% of its revenue from search and display advertising.

Yahoo MailThe class action would make it easier to win larger damages at a lower cost. The plaintiffs estimated the national class of non-Yahoo Mail users at over a million members.

A Yahoo spokesperson from the California-based company said they could not comment on active litigation.

Lucy Koh rejected arguments by the search company that some plaintiffs had consented to its activity by emailing Yahoo users even after discovering how it used the information, and that the alleged injuries were to disparate to justify the class action certification.

Koh distinguished this case from her March 2014 refusal to certify a similar action against Google by Gmail and non-Gmail subscribers, as it was hard to determine which users consented to Google’s activity.

“Yahoo may have to, as a practical matter, adjust its scanning practices on an individual basis”, Koh wrote. “That does not, however, change the fact that plaintiffs seek uniform relief from a common policy that Yahoo applies to all class members”.

SOURCE: Reuters.

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