Yahoo Mail Update Adds Email Scanning

Changes to Yahoo’s web-based email include scans of users’ emails, in order to allow for better-targeted advertisements

As of 3 June, Yahoo Mail and Mail Classic will no longer be available, and users will need to upgrade to a new version and agree to Yahoo’s communications policy – which means agreeing to allow Yahoo to scan and analyse your emails, so that it can better personalise its ads, product features and junk mail detection.

Those not keen to let Yahoo scan their mail can opt out of interest-based and contextual-based advertising by using the Yahoo Interest Manager.

Interest-based advertising

What are interest-based ads? Yahoo explains: “We use information about many of the pages you have visited, ads you have seen and clicked, and some of your searches on Yahoo to create interest categories that help us choose the kinds of ads and content you’ll see.”

Customised ads, which aren’t based on interests Yahoo detects, instead rely on information – such as your location, gender and age – sent by your computer and cookies.

email-iconDon’t want to use the new Yahoo Mail? Yahoo suggests you might instead access your Yahoo email from a non-web-based program such as Outlook or Mac Mail, or else close your Yahoo account. Mail Plus account users who would like to close accounts are eligible for a refund.

In February, Yahoo signed a contextual advertising deal with Google, just as Microsoft launched an ad campaign blasting Google’s practice of scanning emails to offer user-specific ads. The campaign is also intended to promote Outlook, which doesn’t scan user emails.

“Email between a husband and wife, or two best friends, should be personal,” says a narrator. “But Google crosses the line and goes through every single Gmail. Every word. In every email. To and from everyone. To sell ads, based on your most personal messages.”

While Yahoo has the Interest Manager, Microsoft insists that Google offers users “no way to opt out of this invasion of your privacy“.


Outlook instead customises its ads using the information users share when they sign up, such as location by ZIP code, age and gender – the information that Yahoo defaults to when its users opt out of interest-based ads.

On 20 May, Yahoo purchased blogging site Tumblr for $1.1 billion (£700m), promising to both figure out how to better monetise it and “not to screw it up”. During a press conference the same day, Yahoo chief executive Marissa Mayer said the need to improve advertising is a big part of what she’s talked about with Tumblr founder David Karp, who will stay on as chief executive.

“[David] talked wistfully about the ads he saw as a child that would make him want to see a movie or want a particular car,” said Mayer. “Where are the ads that are like that [online]? Where are the ads that are great content in and of themselves?”

Internet advertising doesn’t aspire to be as good as the content it sits beside, Mayer added. “We think that should change.”

As for the new changes to Yahoo Mail, users currently aren’t delighted with it, if an article rating system at the bottom of the page is a good measure. Based on nearly 500 votes, the news had received a rating of one out of five stars.

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Originally published on eWeek.