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Yahoo faces huge class-action lawsuit over email spying

Collecting information for targeted advertising is nothing new, but some tech companies go too far, at least, that’s what a class-action lawsuit against Yahoo alleges. Recently, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh officially ruled that Yahoo must stand against a nationwide class-action lawsuit, which claims that the company was cataloging information in intercepted emails sent from non-Yahoo accounts to Yahoo emails. All this was allegedly done in the name of generating advertising revenue.

The ruling for the class-action suit encompasses any Yahoo users who have been with the service since Oct. 2, 2012. Their right to sue falls under the Federal Stored Communications Act. Additionally, it seems a group of non-Yahoo subscribers may join the suit under the Invasion of Privacy action in the State of California.

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Yahoo is accused of collecting this information from possibly all of its 275 million subscribers. Yahoo presumably collected that info in the same automatic process it uses to scan for spam and malware. Yahoo purportedly snooped through emails and their attachments, as well as searched for keywords that would help with advertising. The motivation for this behavior is clear, as Yahoo generated 79 percent of its yearly revenue in 2014 from search and display advertising.

According to the plaintiffs for this case, the group of non-Yahoo subscribers involved in the suit could be as many as one million members. A class-action lawsuit of this magnitude could aid in achieving higher damages and more sweeping changes at a lower cost, than pursuing individual civil action.

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

Koh said that the reason why she allowed this lawsuit to continue, and not the one against Google’s Gmail, is because it wasn’t clear which Gmail and regular email users agreed to Google’s policies and which did not.

We’ll keep you updated, as the case develops.