Updated Yahoo Mail to scan messages for ad targeting

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An updated version of Yahoo Mail will enable the company to scan consumers' emails to deliver targeted advertisements, the company said May 24. The update will roll out to Yahoo Mail users “in a matter of weeks” with the targeted advertising implemented “in the coming months,” said David McDowell, senior director of product management at Yahoo Mail.

Yahoo will use the same technology is now employs to flag spam, viruses, malware and phishing scams by identifying words and phrases within the body of an email. In addition to emails sent via Yahoo Mail, the company will also be able to scan instant messages and SMS text messages sent through messaging clients, such as Yahoo Messenger or the company's iPad application. The updated Yahoo Mail will allow consumers to send and receive instant messages and SMS text messages within the webmail client.

“The new permissions [that opt-in consumers for targeted advertising] are for all Yahoo communications products, so the latest version of Yahoo Messenger, our mobile applications, and our new webmail [product],” said McDowell.

He added that consumers who upgrade Yahoo Mail will be asked to consent to the targeted advertising at the time of upgrade. Users will be able to opt-out or control the types of ads delivered to them through Yahoo's Ad Interest Manager. Yahoo Mail users are now able to upgrade only to a beta version of Yahoo Mail that will “seamlessly” roll into the forthcoming official release.

The new version of Yahoo Mail also includes an application that allows consumers to unsubscribe from email newsletters or mailing lists. After consumers install the application, they can drag-and-drop messages to a dedicated folder that will opt them out of future communication.

“I think people are receiving more email than ever. So what we want to really do is decrease the noise and bring out personal meaning for users in the inbox to make it the most relevant, clutter-free experience that we possibly can,” said McDowell.

The update will also integrate consumers' social media accounts into the webmail client. Users will be able to reply to Facebook Messages and view Facebook and Twitter feeds via Yahoo Mail.

McDowell said Yahoo will not scan Facebook Messages or social networking feeds to target advertising.

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