Yahoo! Mail upgrade will scan and analyze your communications content

Came across this today:

Yahoo to Users: Let Us Read Your Emails or — Goodbye!

May 30, 2013

NEW YORK – As of June 1, all Yahoo email users are required to upgrade to the company’s newest platform, which allows Yahoo to scan and analyze every email they write or receive. According to Yahoo’s help page, all users who make the transition agree to let the company perform “content scanning and analyzing of your communications content” to target ads, offer products, and perform “abuse protection.”

This means any message that Yahoo’s algorithms find disturbing could flag a user as a bully, a threat, or worse. At the same time, Yahoo can now openly troll through email for personal information that it can share or hold onto indefinitely…

Where prior versions of Yahoo had tracking policies buried in the fine print, the company’s tracking agenda is now openly stated in paragraph 2: “When you upgrade you will be accepting our …Privacy Policy.” That is, its anti-privacy policy.

From Yahoo!:

Do I have to upgrade to the new version of Yahoo! Mail?

Older versions of Yahoo! Mail will only be available until the beginning of June 2013, and after that, you can access your Yahoo! Mail only if you upgrade to the new version. You should have received an email from Yahoo! letting you know that your account required an upgrade.

Terms of Service and Privacy Policy

When you upgrade, you will be accepting our Communications Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. This includes the acceptance of automated content scanning and analyzing of your communications content, which Yahoo! uses to deliver product features, relevant advertising, and abuse protection.

If you prefer to opt out of interest-based and contextual-based advertising resulting from your scanned and analyzed communications content, you can change your settings at any time using our Ad Interest Manager.

The fact that Yahoo! Mail users can opt out of having interest-based ads seems to imply that their primary reason for scanning and analyzing communications content is not for advertisement income. Do government regulations prohibit them from scanning for advertisement purposes? It’s funny that regulations don’t stop them from scanning for more nefarious reasons. I wonder why?

As the article points out:

The new tracking policy affects more than just Yahoo account holders. Everyone who corresponds with a Yahoo email account holder will also have their own message content scanned, analyzed, and stored by Yahoo, even if they themselves have not agreed to Yahoo’s new terms of service.

If you read through the Yahoo! privacy policy, you’ll find that the only thing Yahoo! is concerned about keeping private is the credit card information they collect for premium mail services. Everything else is open view.

From the Yahoo! privacy policy:

We scan and analyze email messages to identify key elements of meaning and then categorize this information for immediate and future use…

Yahoo! Mail may include interactive mail features from 3rd parties as well. Your personally identifiable information is not directly shared with the 3rd party without your consent.

Don’t they get consent when someone agrees to the upgrade?

Yahoo! is also offering the new service of archiving instant messages, which will allow them to scan those too:

Yahoo! Mail and the new Yahoo! Messenger version 11…work together better than ever. Yahoo! Mail and Yahoo! Messenger share a common search platform. This means you may now archive Yahoo! instant messages along with your mail messages on Yahoo! servers and search them together (including Voice Mail, SMS, and more) from a wide variety of devices and computing systems…

In order to bring you the newest Yahoo! Mail, Yahoo!’s automated systems will scan and analyze all incoming and outgoing email, IM, and other communications content sent and received from your account in order to personalize your experience.

Remember Mel Gibson mailing out his newsletters in the movie, Conspiracy Theory? If we want our communications to stay private, will we soon have to send all correspondence via the postal service? Who trusts them?

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