16/04/2018 14:48 BST

Yahoo And AOL Mail Will Scan The Contents Of Emails To Provide More Targeted Ads

Gmail stopped the practice in late 2017.

Oath, the parent company of brands such as HuffPost, TechCrunch and others has recently updated its privacy policy, which means it now has the right to scan the emails of Yahoo and AOL mail users.

According to the new policy, Oath now has the right to: “analyze all communications content (such as Mail and Messenger content including instant messages and SMS messages) and all photos and other content uploaded to your account”.


The company says it will use this information: “to detect, among other things, certain words and phrases (we call them “keywords”) within these communications.”

According to the policy, this technology will be used to protect users, but also to “match and serve targeted advertising (across devices and both on and off of our Services) and provide relevant advertising based on your device activity, inferred interests and location data.”

The technology goes to some lengths: the policy describes how the company will use “image recognition algorithms” which can identify places, public figures, actions and more.

Yahoo has been using this technology for some time, but Oath’s newly updated privacy policy means the company has extended the scanning technology to all its products including AOL mail.

Oath certainly aren’t the only company to utilise a technology like this, indeed Facebook revealed that it uses advanced algorithms to scan photos and links sent within Messenger in order to look for illegal or abusive content.

Until late last year, Google’s Gmail used a similar technology to scan the contents of its users’ messages. It announced in June, however, that it would be stopping the practise before the end of 2017.

In the wake of Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, data privacy has become a lot more visible to the public.

Oath does provide a privacy tools website, which it claims will allow you to disable interest-based adverts, although it’s not clear whether users can actually turn email scanning off altogether.

In a statement to HuffPost UK, an Oath spokesperson said: “The launch of a unified Oath privacy policy and terms of service is a key stepping stone toward creating what’s next for our consumers while empowering them with transparency and controls over how and when their data is used.”