August 31, 2016

JUSTICE: The most absurd Internet privacy class-action settlement ever.

In 2013, Yahoo announced that it would begin scanning its users’ e-mail for targeted advertising purposes—just as Google does. As is par for the course, class-action lawsuits were filed. The Silicon Valley media giant, according to one of the lawsuits, was violating the “personal liberties” of non-Yahoo Mail users. That’s because non-Yahoo Mail users, who have sent mail to Yahoo mail users, were having their e-mail scanned without their permission.

The suit, which was one of six that were co-mingled as a single class action, demanded that a judge halt the scanning and award each victim “$5,000 or three times actual damages” in addition to “reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.”

Fast forward three years. The case is now closed. Days ago, a Silicon Valley federal judge signed off (PDF) on a settlement (PDF). The lawyers won, they were awarded $4 million (£3 million), and the public got nothing. What’s more, the settlement allows Yahoo to continue to scan e-mails without non-Yahoo users’ consent.

It’s almost as though class-action suits have become nothing more than shakedown operations for lawyers.

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