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The Boston Globe

Business

Yahoo sued over e-mail scans that beget ads

NEW YORK —Yahoo has been accused in a lawsuit of intercepting e-mails sent to users of its mail service and using personal information in them 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 Friday in federal court in San Jose, Calif.

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Information gleaned by scanning communications between users and nonusers is used for tailoring advertisements to them, increasing Yahoo’s revenue, according to the suit, which cites the company’s published policies for its new e-mail 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 nonusers.

“As a matter of policy, Yahoo does not comment on ongoing litigation,” Sarah Meron, a company spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

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

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

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