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Google Lost; will Yahoo Face the same Fate over Email Intrusion?

By Allie Philpin

So, Google lost the privacy lawsuit against them; ok, that’s not much of a surprise as most of us think that these big corporations believe they can do anything and get away with it!  But there’s a sting in the tail for those providers of email accounts for the general public… more lawsuits; which is exactly what has happened to Yahoo.  Lawyers, Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, have filed a class action against Yahoo, similar to that filed against Google, regarding their policy of scanning email accounts in order to target advertisements.

Plaintiff lawyers are accusing Yahoo of being in breach of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act 1986, as well as the Invasion of Privacy Act in California, when they intercept emails.  Ara Jabagchourian at the law firm confirmed in an interview that US District Judge Lucy Koh’s ruling in Google’s case led them to look further into Yahoo’s practices when it comes to email accounts.  He said: “We had people calling us in outrage about this.  We looked at Yahoo’s policies, and they’re doing the exact same thing.”

However, one significant different between the two cases is that the Yahoo lawsuit has been filed on behalf of people that hold alternative email accounts with other providers that have sent messages to users of Yahoo email accounts.  Currently, there is a provision in Yahoo’s terms of service and privacy policy that states that messages will be scanned; but Brian Schnarr, a Cotchett principal, did imply that users of Yahoo email accounts could be included in the complaint at a later date.

If other email providers didn’t ‘sit up and take notice’ when Google lost their lawsuit a few weeks ago, they certainly will now!  This latest lawsuit against Yahoo is the big warning sign that email users have had enough of the providers snooping of email messages, and is a clear indication that not only is the general public’s attitude is changing, the judiciary is becoming more proactive when it comes to electronic privacy and we could find that the way we, and providers, conduct our email accounts is adjusted through the use of litigation.  Eric Goldman at the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clare University School of Law believes that these lawsuits against privacy may lead email providers to reduce their service offerings; time will tell.

And whilst Microsoft is having a great time ‘taking the mickey’ out of Google in their latest ‘Scroogled’ campaign – they don’t allow the practice of email snooping – I wonder how long it will be before their practices will be investigated further, and will their policies stand up to scrutiny?

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