Yahoo’s once-iconic San Francisco billboard, pictured here in 2011. (credit: Scott Schiller)

In late 2013, Yahoo was hit with six lawsuits over their practice of using automated scans of e-mail to produce targeted ads. The cases, which were consolidated in federal court, all argued that the privacy rights of non-Yahoo users, who “did not consent to Yahoo’s interception and scanning of their emails,” were having their rights violated by a multi-billion dollar company.
Now, lawyers representing the plaintiffs are singing a different tune. Last week, they asked US District Judge Lucy Koh to accept a proposed settlement (PDF). Under the proposal, the massive class of non-Yahoo users won’t get any payment, but the class lawyers at Girard Gibbs and Kaplan Fox intend to ask for up to $4 million in fees. (The ultimate amount of fees will be up to the judge, but Yahoo has agreed not to oppose any fee request up to $4 million.)
While users won’t get any payment, Yahoo will change how it handles user e-mails—but it isn’t the change that the plaintiffs attorneys were originally asking for. Yahoo won’t stop scanning e-mails. Instead, the company has agreed to make a technical change to when it scans e-mails. In the settlement (PDF), Yahoo has agreed that e-mail content will be “only sent to servers for analysis for advertising purposes after a Yahoo Mail user can access the email in his or her inbox.”
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