Yahoo and AOL scan your inbox for advertising purposes

Shawn Knight

TechSpot Staff
Staff member

According to a recent report from The Wall Street Journal, Oath has been pitching a service to advertisers which analyzes more than 200 million Yahoo inboxes for data about products a consumer may be interested in purchasing.

A person familiar with the matter told the publication that the practice at Yahoo began more than a decade ago and has expanded over the years. Oath even said the practice extends to AOL Mail.

Doug Sharp, Oath’s vice president of data, measurements and insights, told the Journal that the practice only applies to commercial e-mails in a user’s account, like those from a retailer or a mass mailing. The system ignores personal e-mails and strips out all identifiable information from the data it does use, Sharp noted.

“E-mail is an expensive system,” Sharp said. “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.”

What’s ironic is that Yahoo also offers an ad-free e-mail service for $3.49 per month but it, too, scans e-mails for advertising purposes. Like in the free version, users of the paid version can opt out of e-mail scanning.

Google was guilty of the practice for more than a decade to show relevant ads while users were looking at Gmail but said last year it would stop scanning free user inboxes. Microsoft told the Journal it has never used e-mail data for advertising purposes.

Lead photo via Getty Images

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ghostf1re

TS Guru
I ditched Yahoo at least 15 years ago and AOL has been even longer. Are people still using these services?
 

cliffordcooley

TS Redneck
"Microsoft told the Journal it has never used e-mail data for advertising purposes."

Keep in mind Microsoft didn't say your email data is never scanned. They said your email was never scanned for the specific purpose of advertising. Seems Microsoft consulted their lawyer before commenting.
 

Cubi Dorf

TS Booster
It consider cool in my country to have aol email because it say you know English, especially for us ladies. It is shame what America internet has becoming.
 
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jobeard

TS Ambassador
ALL email uses a Store-and-Forward architecture -- actually there are two stores involved in every message:
  1. the first is where your email connects for email service (frequently but not required your ISP)
  2. the second is where the recipient has their email service.
The (1) is short lived surviving only until the recipient email has signaled receipt. The second may be short lived, or on the server storage for a very long time where the IMAP implementation is deployed. If you can access the same inbox from multiple devices or a web interface, you're using IMAP.
 

netman

TS Evangelist
"The system ignores personal e-mails and strips out all identifiable information from the data it does use, Sharp noted."

That is the complete bullsh*t! Never agreed to the new Oath Policy since takeover and I would dump Yahoo and AOL soon...
 

ghostf1re

TS Guru
you're bashing yahoo/aol as if google doesn't do similar practice.
Saying I ditched their services years ago is not even close to bashing. Also Google has always had a better service, regardless of any of the shady practices. The UI was always better. The spam filtering was better. Google email has always been 100% better than anything AOL or Yahoo ever offered. Am I advocating for these invasive practices? No. I'm just saying I ditched their services years ago in favor of the better options.
 
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jobeard

TS Ambassador
Never agreed to the new Oath Policy since takeover and I would dump Yahoo and AOL soon...
Then when you elected to use the social media login choices, you didn't read the policies and just barged right in and now you've discovered a consequence. I wrote that up some time ago and suggested that the shared one-login was an exposure and users should opt for a sight specific login per site to avoid hidden sharing. use search on techspot for the article on OAuth Api
 

p51d007

TS Evangelist
I still have my old hotmail account with an @hotmail.com address.
It's my "burner" account. Anything I purchase online, any site I sign up for,
I use that account. Daily, I get around 100-150 spam/junk emails.
Keeps my normal email address a bit cleaner & less bugging me when my
phone checks it from time to time during the day.
 

Aux101

TS Enthusiast
I closed my Yahoo! account a while ago.
Too many flaws, including 20min delayed emails to name only one.
Felt way better once I knew I was done with it. :)