Web giant analyzes more than 200 million inboxes for clues about what products people might buy—a practice much of Silicon Valley has declared off-limits
The U.S. tech industry has largely declared it is off limits to scan emails for information to sell to advertisers. Yahoo AABA +0.24% still sees the practice as a potential gold mine.
Yahoo’s owner, the Oath unit of Verizon Communications Inc., VZ +0.20% has been pitching a service to advertisers that analyzes more than 200 million Yahoo Mail inboxes and the rich user data they contain, searching for clues about what products those users might buy, said people who have attended Oath’s presentations as well as current and former employees of the company.
.. Mr. Sharp said that being served ads is part of the trade-off users make in exchange for free online services, and that Yahoo’s research shows they prefer ads that are relevant to them.
.. Oath promises to give advertisers an edge by identifying groups of users who have bought certain products or services based on the receipts, travel itineraries and promotions in their inboxes
.. Google said it stopped targeting ads based on Gmail data last year, saying it wanted users to “remain confident that Google will keep privacy and security paramount.”
.. Google already collects so much data from its search engine that it no longer needed to rely on email data
.. Oath’s email scanning appears to go a step further than Google’s former system, by creating interest profiles of users based on the data in their email and using that intelligence to target them elsewhere on the web.
.. Yahoo Mail users who receive frequent emails about driving for Lyft Inc. are sometimes placed into a “self-employed” audience, Mr. Sharp said. Some people who bought several plane tickets in the past year are labeled frequent travelers
.. Oath uses receipts in Yahoo Mail inboxes as proof that an ad campaign convinced a user to buy a product
.. In 2015, Amazon stopped including full itemized receipts in the emails it sends customers, partly because the company didn’t want Yahoo and others gathering that data for their own use