Lawyers! win! millions! in! bonkers! Yahoo! email! snooping! case!

Privacy, who needs it?

A bunch of lawyers have persuaded Yahoo! to keep scanning e-mails for advertising and pay their fees.

The class-action case was launched in 2013, and finally got the formal green-light to go ahead last year.

The Purple Palace wanted to scan e-mails passing through its systems, so as to deliver targeted advertising to those still running a Yahoo.com e-mail address.

That offended people who aren't Yahoo! users, since their messages were getting scanned without them even clicking-through a 17,000-word terms and conditions document or privacy policy.

The class action accused the Web giant struggling company of violating California's Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA) and the federal Stored Communications Act (SCA).

Now, in a mystifying settlement, lawyers for the plaintiffs have taken a payout; agreed that none of the plaintiffs get anything; and agreed that Judge Lucy Koh can sign off on Yahoo! continuing to scan e-mails – so long as it only does so when the messages are at rest, not in transit.

Judge Koh – and, we presume, the lawyers who brought the case and agreed to the settlement – said the “Plaintiffs have achieved their stated goal in this litigation: Yahoo! will no longer intercept and analyse emails in transit for advertising purposes” (emphasis added).

The settlement states:

“Yahoo! represents and warrants it will make technical changes such that, for incoming email, email content will be retrieved from the servers from which email is accessible by Yahoo! Mail users, and only sent to servers for analysis for advertising purposes after a Yahoo! Mail user can access the email in his or her inbox.

“For outgoing email, Yahoo! represents and warrants it will make technical changes such that email content will be retrieved from the servers from which outgoing email is accessible by Yahoo Mail users, and only sent to servers for analysis for advertising purposes after a Yahoo! Mail user can access the outgoing email in his or her sent email folder.”

While the agreement is that the Purple Pain need only implement these measures for three years, Yahoo! reckons it will be so difficult and costly it may as well leave the measures in place forever.

The company will also add suitable words to a terms and conditions that non-users have no reason to read – you can't make this up – and the lawyers who led the case get US$4 million.

Cody Baker, Brian Pincus, Halima Nobles, and Rebecca Abrams – the named plaintiffs in the class action – get $5,000 each. ®

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