If you’ve got a Yahoo or AOL email address then your correspondence might not be as private as you think, as Oath (the combined Yahoo and AOL business) uses a program that scans accounts, with over 200 million inboxes scanned in total.
That’s according to The Wall Street Journal, which reports that these scans are designed to look for information contained in your emails that can then be sold to advertisers to help them provide targeted ads. This could lead to more relevant adverts then, but it comes at the cost of some privacy.
It’s also something that other major email providers don’t do. Gmail for example stopped doing this in 2017 – though it and other email providers still allow third-party developers to read your emails if you sign up for certain services.
It won't scan everything
The scanning system run by Oath is aimed purely at advertising and will apparently exclude sensitive information, such as health and banking records.
However, it’s still doing something that free alternatives won’t, and the scans go quite deep, as they’re apparently able for example to detect what products you buy from scanning digital receipts. There’s also the worry that Oath may make mistakes and scan some more sensitive information that it’s not meant to.
So if you’re using AOL or Yahoo Mail and care about privacy it could be time to switch to a different email account. Though, for anything really sensitive, email probably isn’t the best communication and storage solution anyway.