If you have a Yahoo account your emails have probably been scanned to figure out what you buy — and they may have been read by employees of the company

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  • Oath – the Verizon business that includes Yahoo and AOL – scans user emails for ad targeting, The Wall Street Journal reported.
  • The practice isn’t new, but Oath has recently been pitching advertisers a service that scans more than 200 million inboxes for buying habits.
  • The rest of the industry has pretty much stopped scanning emails, making Yahoo and AOL the only major email providers to do this.

If you’ve got a Yahoo.com or an AOL.com email address, your emails have probably been scanned to figure out what you might buy.

That’s because Verizon’s advertising business Oath – which owns Yahoo and AOL – has been pitching advertisers a service that scans more than 200 million inboxes for data on consumer buying habits, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The service benefits advertisers by identifying consumers who buy certain services or receive some targeted commercial correspondence. For example, Yahoo users who receive emails about driving for Lyft might be identified as self-employed.

Then, tagging data are placed on these users’ computers to that advertisers know how to target ads specifically to them.

The practice of scanning inboxes has largely fallen out of practice by the rest of the industry, as data privacy grows in importance to users. Yahoo and AOL are the only major email providers to conduct such scans on inboxes, according to The Journal.

“Email is an expensive system,” Doug Sharp, vp of data, measurements and insights at Oath, told The Journal. “I think it’s reasonable and ethical to expect the value exchange, if you’ve got this mail service and there is advertising going on.”

The practice of scanning Yahoo user email is not new, but it has expanded over the years, especially as Oath was created in 2017 to compete against the Facebook-Google duopoly. Oath’s privacy policy also allows for Yahoo human employees to review sections of some commercial emails.

These practices have raised questions and concerns about data privacy in the industry, according to The Journal.

To read the full story in the Wall Street Journal, click here.