Yahoo has been removing contacts from Yahoo Mail users' contacts lists without the consent of these users. We received an email about it from one angry user this morning.
The user included a message they received from Yahoo Customer Care, which said:
Yahoo! wants to make sure your address book is filled with the most current and valid emails to those family, friends and contacts you need to reach. We noticed that you had emails in your address book that are no longer valid, so we have removed them.
Email addresses that have been removed:
and %count% more.
Only retired emails have been removed. All other contact information remains.
Did you know you can import more contacts from Facebook or Gmail in two easy steps? Get started now.
"If Yahoo can get into my contacts and remove valid email addresses, what else can they take?" the user said in an email to WebProNews.
"I called Rogers, my internet provider," the user said. "They didn't seem to know anything about it. They gave me Yahoo's phone number as Rogers uses Yahoo Mail. Yahoo said that it was a Yahoo initiative and they are not prepared to stop it."
"I re-input the valid email address and when I tried to email my friend on Oct 7th, the email address had once again disappeared from my contacts," the user said. "No warning this time....I have no idea how many email addresses that Yahoo has removed."
"I consider this an invasion of my privacy," the user added.
The user noted that not everyone at Rogers is aware of the issue. "I have to dig hard to get confirmation that it is actually happening. It was admitted in writing when I had a 'live chat' with Rogers on October 7th. Unfortunately, I became so frustrated that I did not capture the conversation. Employees that I speak with at Rogers are wowed."
The user says her friend (the owner of the email address that Yahoo removed) is wondering how many contacts and lists she has been deleted from.
Yahoo acknowledges in its help center that it has been deleting contacts. Here's the message:
Now, Yahoo claims it is only deleting invalid addresses from people's contacts. The user insists that the one they deleted from her account was a valid address. Based on the email she sent us, her friend seems to agree. We're still in the process of trying to confirm that it is indeed a valid address.
We've also reached out to Yahoo for comment, and have yet to hear back. We'll update if we do. They do appear to acknowledge in the help center article that errors are possible, but it's interesting that the user in question restored the address only to have it removed again.
Either way, the whole thing brings to light another issue posed by Yahoo's email address recycling program. We've already seen claims of security issues that have been discovered where users are getting emails from the original account holders, sometimes containing sensitive information. Yahoo has even acknowledged that this has actually happened, and responded with a button for users to let Yahoo know when they get other people's email. This does little to prevent bad actors from taking advantage, however.
Yahoo has received a fair amount of criticism from people in the security field over the program, which was simply designed to give its loyal users better email addresses. Now, we have people thinking that Yahoo itself is invading their privacy.
Update: Here's the response we got from Yahoo:
“In June, we announced an opportunity for users to sign up for the Yahoo username they've always wanted. We're able to do this because we're freeing up usernames that were inactive for at least 12 months. As part of this recycling process, if an inactive account is listed within a Yahoo address book, it is automatically removed when the account is recycled. This is so that we can ensure that email is sent to the intended recipient. Any other information such as phone numbers, mailing addresses, or alternate email addresses within the contact remains.
If a user believes their Yahoo! Contacts were removed in error, we encourage them to review this help article about restoring missing contacts for more information."
Update 2: We've confirmed that the address in question was indeed valid.