Class Action Certified Against Yahoo For Alleged Privacy Violations Relating to Scanning Emails Content

By this point it is well known that companies are taking advantage of any and all personal information they can collect on customers. Every Internet search, social media “like”, and online purchase is closely monitored for the purpose of determining which ads we would be most likely to respond to.

Despite the fact that many companies include information on these practices on their terms of service, people should not be subject to these types of practices without agreeing to them.

For example, Yahoo is currently facing a class action lawsuit from plaintiffs who were not Yahoo Mail subscribers, but sent emails to or received emails from Yahoo Mail subscribers. According to the lawsuit, Yahoo allegedly illegally intercepted these emails and analyzed the content, including keywords and attachments. Far from just scanning for spam and malware, Yahoo Mail allegedly did this to create “targeted advertising” for Yahoo Mail subscribers. Because these users were not subscribers of Yahoo Mail, they allegedly did not agree to be subject to these practices.

The lawsuit is seeking an injunction that would prevent these alleged interceptions, as well as payment of damages to the affected class members. The proposed class action estimates that more than one million users are eligible to participate in the class.

Yahoo argued that some of the class members consented to the information gathering by continuing to email Yahoo subscribers after having learned how Yahoo used the information. Yahoo also claimed the alleged injuries were too different between class members to justify class certification.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh disagreed. She ultimately rejected Yahoo’s argument, although she did allow that Yahoo may have to adjust its scanning practices on an individual basis for its users. However, she noted the fact remains that the class members are seeking uniform relief from practices that resulted from a common policy that Yahoo applied to all of its users.

Koh certified two separate classes of plaintiffs to sue Yahoo for the email content scanning practices. One class will consist of any non-Yahoo Mail subscribers who sent emails to or received emails from Yahoo Mail subscribers nationwide any time after October 2, 2011. This class can sue the company under the Stored Communications Act for allegedly violating their privacy.

The second class of plaintiffs will consist of all non-Yahoo Mail subscribers in California who sent emails to or received emails from Yahoo Mail subscribers any time since October 2, 2012. This class of plaintiffs can sue under California’s Invasion of Privacy Act.

Class actions are a necessary tool for plaintiffs with small claims, especially when facing large corporate defendants, such as Yahoo. The damage done to each individual in the lawsuit may have allegedly been small, but when they combine their claims, they have a stronger case against the defendant. Getting a court to file an injunction against the defendant is also an important part of class action lawsuits because it protects other consumers from being harmed by the alleged illegal business practice in the future.

Because ads that are targeted tend to have a higher success rate, this kind of “targeted advertising” has the potential to be very lucrative. In 2014 alone, Yahoo generated almost 80 percent of its revenue from search and display advertising.

Our Schaumburg, Illinois consumer rights private law firm handles individual and class action deceptive advertising, predatory lending, unfair debt collection, lemon law and other consumer fraud cases that government agencies and public interest law firms such as the Illinois Attorney General may not pursue. Class action lawsuits our law firm has been involved in or spear-headed have led to substantial awards totalling over a million dollars to organizations including the National Association of Consumer Advocatesthe National Consumer Law Center, and local law school consumer programs. The Chicago consumer lawyers at Lubin Austermuehle are proud of our achievements in assisting national and local consumer rights organizations obtain the funds needed to ensure that consumers are protected and informed of their rights. By standing up to consumer fraud and consumer rip-offs, and in the right case filing consumer protection lawsuits and class-actions you too can help ensure that other consumers’ rights are protected from consumer rip-offs and unscrupulous or dishonest practices.

Our Elk Grove Village and Des Plaines consumer attorneys provide assistance in fair debt collection, consumer fraud and consumer rights cases including in Illinois and throughout the country. You can click here to see a description of the some of the many individual and class-action consumer cases our Chicago consumer lawyers have handled. A video of our lawsuit which helped ensure more fan friendly security at Wrigley Field can be found here. You can contact one of our Aurora consumer protection attorneys who can assist in consumer fraud, consumer rip-off, lemon law, unfair debt collection, predatory lending, wage claims, unpaid overtime and other consumer, or consumer class action cases by filling out the contact form at the side of this blog or by clicking here.  You can also call our toll free number at 630-333-0333.

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