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Yahoo and AOL reportedly scan your emails, sell data to advertisers

Vishal Krishna
posted on 30th August 2018
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In what can be termed as a shocker, Verizon Oath, the parent company of Yahoo and AOL, is reportedly scanning emails for information so that data can be shared with subscribers.

The data thus collected can be used to figure out products that can be targeted at specific users, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

The report says that Yahoo scans close to 200 million email inboxes a month. Even AOL scans business email inboxes to serve ads.

The report further explained that Yahoo categorises emails and puts users into different groups--for example, a “frequent traveller” group--and targets them with specific advertising. However, they are done in a manner in which advertisers will not have access to an individual’s information. Yahoo looks at key words in inboxes such as ‘Travel’, ‘Retail Shoppers’ and ‘Self-Employed People’.

Yahoo charges $3.49 a month for ad free services, and holds 17 percent of the world’s email market.

It must be noted that when General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)--which protects the privacy and data of citizens within the European Union as well as when it is used in  international business - was implemented on May 25, it heralded what would happen next to data sovereignty and security policies in other nations.

Following this, most nations have prepared a draft data law. In India, the Justice BN Srikrishna Committee submitted its report on the data protection law to the Ministry of Electronics and IT last month, wherein it addresses various issues affecting the data ecosystem in India and the rights of individuals.

Despite various structures in place, the internet is devoid of laws because the “Opt In” or “Opt Out” options for consumers is very cleverly manipulated by businesses. The “opt in” option is easily available whereas the “opt out” option is very difficult to find.

Now, here is the kicker. Google, which has 36.3 percent of the online ad market - according to ComScore - and 63 percent of the world’s emails signed up, does not scan email inboxes. The question is, why should Yahoo be allowed to?

“No matter how many data laws come into effect, people will visit a website for information and their natural tendency is to press ‘I accept’. Today's generation okay ok with sharing data, unfortunately they don't know how it is being used,” says a lawyer who handles data protection for businesses.

Business sources opine if you are concerned about your data and want to remain anonymous then you must ensure you find the “opt out button.” But good luck finding that. Or just press 'don’t accept” when you enter a website and it wants to collect your data.

However, if you accept, “the opt out” button is very hard to find.

Now, that's a dilemma beyond governments.

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