Two California users have filed a potential class-action lawsuit against Yahoo for scanning emails in order to surround them with targeted ads.
The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday in federal court in the Northern District of California, comes several days after a judge ruled that a similar ad program by Google potentially violates the federal wiretap law.
In their complaint against Yahoo, California residents Tammy Zapata and John Kevranian say Yahoo illegally scanned messages they sent to Yahoo users. Zapata and Kevranian say they don't have Yahoo email accounts, and therefore have not agreed to the company's terms of service -- which state it analyzes all communications in order to “personalize” email with relevant ads. “Yahoo intentionally intercepts and reviews the content of their electronic communications for financial gain,” they allege.
They argue that Yahoo violates the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act by intercepting emails and scanning them for keywords, in order to place targeted ads near the messages. That law prohibits companies from intercepting communications without users' consent.
The complaint is similar to a long-running class-action accusing Google of violating the federal wiretap law by serving contextual ads in Gmail. In that case, U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh in the Northern District of California rejected Google's motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Koh said in the ruling that non-Gmail users don't consent to have their messages scanned. Koh also ruled that Gmail users don't consent to the interceptions, because Google's terms of service don't clearly explain its scanning program.
Google has scanned Gmail messages since rolling out the service in 2004. Yahoo only started doing so in 2011.