If you use AOL and Yahoo! email accounts rest assured your personal, private emails aren’t! The extent of the granular (that means you) information gathered is astounding.

Verizon Communications bought AOL and Yahoo! and in 2015/2017. It also owns digital content, media and telematics company Oath and rolled both email providers under that corporate banner.

The problem is that Oath, motto ‘Build Brands that people love’, is really a huge data mining operation focused on extracting data from its users and selling it to advertisers.

So, it’s not just AOL and Yahoo! Groups/mail/sports/news/fantasy, but the host of other entities it controls

  • Autoblog
  • com
  • CompuServe
  • Edgecast
  • Engadget
  • HuffPost
  • MapQuest (web mapping)
  • Netscape
  • RYOT
  • TechCrunch
  • Verizon Digital Media Services

The bottom line is that Oath reads and analyses everything to distil what you have bought, where you are thinking of going on holidays, new additions to the family, oh, and your innermost secrets. It then enables advertisers to feed you tailored advertisements with surgical scalpel-like precision. You can read Oath’s “Why this ad?” statement.

AOL and Yahoo!

Oath call this data mining programmatic advertising but that is really a euphemism for snooping and selling your secrets.

GadgetGuy’s take. My oath! If a product is free the product is you.

Yes, we should all be horrified and change providers immediately. But the damage is done …

AOL and Yahoo! have a profile on you!

Other major email providers like Outlook, Gmail and Apple, stopped scanning email some time ago. Apple and Microsoft sing from the same song sheet, “We do not use email content for ad targeting in any way, anywhere, anytime …”

Gmail used to scan emails but stopped last year. That also includes any G-suite apps like calendar, docs, drive etc.

It, like others, can still use ‘metrics’ from user’s devices but stops short of reading content etc. All scan to help prevent spam, hacking, phishing or for government requests etc.

If like me you object to advertiser harassment you can use a paid service – Apple, Outlook etc. and tie down your privacy settings.

Or if you really want total privacy, Swiss-based ProtonMail seems to be the best option. Its free account is fine for casual users (up to 150 messages per day and 500MB of storage), but most will end up on the 4.00 € /Month plan. There are also options for enterprise use.

Interestingly the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) explicitly prohibits AOL and Yahoo! Type activity without opt-in user consent. According to reports Oath has not altered its conduct there so huge fines could await it.

AOL and Yahoo!