Today, the Wall Street Journal reported Yahoo Mail is still scanning users’ emails for data to sell to advertisers. Yahoo’s owner, Oath, is reportedly in talks with advertisers to provide a service that would scan over 200 million Yahoo Mail inboxes for insights on whether users are frequent fliers, self-employed, and other qualities gleaned from retail emails they receive. There are two main ways users can still protect themselves from this data mining: they can opt out and they can choose a more secure email provider.
Here’s how you can opt out of Yahoo Mail’s scanning:
- Head over to the Ad Interest Manager page and select “opt out” underneath “Your Advertising Choices.” The page is not located in Settings, which makes it hard to find.
- After you opt out of personalized ads using Yahoo’s across the web, click over to “On Yahoo” and then choose opt out yet again. This one “disables personalization based on your interests” across Yahoo’s own properties. Be sure to opt out of both. If you simply click on the blue opt out button once, Yahoo will still be scanning your email and sorting you by qualities to fit a profile it can send to advertisers. And even if you’re a premium Yahoo Mail user, you’ll need to opt out manually to prevent your data from being sent to advertisers.
After you opt out, characteristics like your age bracket and your gender show up as hidden to Yahoo.
But even after you’ve opted out, Yahoo Mail still isn’t the best choice for a mail app. Yahoo admitted in 2017 that all 3 billion of its accounts have been breached before, years after the breach occurred.
So what are some alternative email providers that offer more security and privacy? You’ve got the obvious choices of Gmail or Microsoft Outlook, but there are several lesser known choices that might be worth a try.
You will find that none of them have as much storage as Yahoo Mail’s whopping 1TB of free storage space. (Gmail, on the other hand, has a limit of 15GB unless you pay for more.) Granted, Yahoo’s massive storage space is self-admittedly used for storing consumer emails, so maybe after cutting down on retail spam, you won’t need that much space. As Oath told the WSJ today, email can be an expensive system, and Yahoo’s tradeoff is all that space in exchange for your data.
ProtonMail is one that people name a lot when thinking about secure email. It’s end-to-end encrypted and it’s client-side encrypted so the service provider isn’t privy to the encryption key. It was founded in Switzerland by a small team in 2013. If you want more storage, there are a number of premium plans you can choose, for up to 50GB of storage.
If the name isn’t enough to appeal to you (the nostalgic browser-based game Neopets of yesteryear has a messaging system called Neomail), this email provider also boasts encryption, IP-hiding for extra privacy, and spam and virus protection. It’s hosted in Switzerland. One downside to Neomailbox is that the max storage is 10GB.
This one is recommended by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which urges you to use the anonymity network Tor while making any email account. “If you mess up just once and log into the pseudonymous account from your real IP address, chances are that your webmail provider will keep linkable records about you forever,” it wrote in a 2012 article.
Once you’ve set up Hushmail in conjunction with Tor, you’ll find end-to-end encryption, two-factor authentication, hidden IP addresses, and more security features. Hushmail has been around since 1999 and it also has an iOS app. Like Neomailbox, it has a max limit of 10GB of storage.