Yahoo is bracing itself for a class action lawsuit over allegations that it illegally accessed emails sent to its mail customers from non-Yahoo accounts, after a US judge granted Californian victims the right to sue the company as a group.
The action relates to users who sent or received emails to Yahoo Mail accounts from 2 October 2011, encompassing an estimated 1m members, who attest that Yahoo breached their privacy to collect data in order to bolster its ad revenues.
Claimants accuse Yahoo of intercepting and analysing emails and attachments sent by non-Yahoo mail users to improve ‘targeted advertising’ for its 275m members, a crucial component of Yahoo’s business model with some 80 per cent of all revenue deriving from search and display advertising.
In their action the plaintiffs call for an injunction banning Yahoo from further spying as well as unspecified damages.
Whilst not denying that it accessed the emails Yahoo contends that as some claimants continued with their subscriptions despite being aware of such activity they had consented by default to allowing their emails to be read.
A separate group of non-Yahoo account holders since 2 October 2012 were also granted the right to sue.