Yahoo sued in California for allegedly intercepting emails

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

(c) 2013, Bloomberg News.

Yahoo was accused in a lawsuit of intercepting emails sent to users of its mail service and using personal information to profit from related advertisements.

The plaintiff seeks damages of $5,000 for each person whose privacy was allegedly invaded, according to a complaint filed on Friday in federal court in San Jose, Calif. Information gleaned by scanning communications between users and non-users is used for tailoring advertisements to them, increasing Yahoo's revenue, according to the filing, which cites the company's published policies for its new email service.

"Yahoo's automated systems scan and analyze all incoming and outgoing communications content sent and received from your account," says the policy, according to the complaint. The purpose is to "match and serve targeted advertising and for spam and malware detection."

Lawsuits against Internet companies and social networks are rising as use of the Web balloons and users become more aware of how much personal information they are revealing, often without their knowledge. Google and LinkedIn also are facing accusations of intercepting communications for their own profit at the expense of users or non-users.

"As a matter of policy, Yahoo does not comment on ongoing litigation," Sarah Meron, a company spokeswoman, said Saturday in an email.

Brian Pincus, the plaintiff, seeks to represent non-Yahoo customers whose email was intercepted in a class-action, or group lawsuit.

Yahoo previously asked in a court filing that earlier lawsuits over scanning of email for targeted advertising be treated as related cases.

Ads bring in three-quarters of Yahoo's revenue, according to the complaint. With more than 275 million customers globally, Yahoo mail is one of the largest web-based email services, the plaintiff said.

The case is Pincus v. Yahoo! Inc., 13-cv-05326, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).