Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) has turned off automatic email forwarding for Yahoo Mail users. Yahoo posted on its help pages that mail forwarding is currently under development. In a statement, Yahoo said, “Users can expect an update to the auto-forward functionality soon. In the meantime, we continue to support multiple account management.”
Mail forwarding was turned off in early October. Those who have already enabled the feature will not be affected. However, no one else will be able to activate the feature. On October 4, reports emerged of Yahoo’s compliance with U.S. spy agencies to scan users’ mail. That makes the timing of the automatic mail forwarding suspension awfully suspicious.
According to a report in The New York Times, the FBI scanned Yahoo users’ incoming emails for an unusual string of characters that had been linked to a terrorist organization. Patrick Toomey, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, described the request as “precisely the type of general, suspicion-less search that the Fourth Amendment was intended to prohibit.” The report claims that the scans have now stopped. It’s not clear if Yahoo turned off mail forwarding just before or just after news broke.
Yahoo is already facing a class action lawsuit over a massive hack that occurred at the end of 2014 that exposed the information of nearly half a billion users. A state-sponsored adversary, which the company did not name, has been blamed for the breach. The hackers stole users’ names, email addresses, passwords, phone numbers, birth dates, and security questions. Users tend to reuse login credentials, so the hackers may have information that would allow them to break into other organizations.
The company’s failure to disclose the breach for nearly two years suggests inadequate breach detection and response capabilities. The other scenario, that the company remained mum despite knowing about the issue, is just as frightening.
The highly controversial disclosures may have encouraged users to dump Yahoo Mail for competitors like Gmail or Outlook.com. It remains unclear just how many users intend to leave Yahoo over the privacy concerns and bad publicity. The company could also be facing additional legal challenges over its complicity in government surveillance.
Some users now are having a hard time switching to another email provider. Automatic email forwarding is a crucial feature when changing email accounts. The feature to automatically forward email has been standard for years. Yahoo has denied that it has made it deliberately difficult for customers to switch to another email provider.
Yahoo is currently finalizing a multi-billion dollar sale to Verizon. The deal has not yet closed. Reports have emerged that the wireless company has now asked for a $1 billion discount off of Yahoo’s $4.83 billion sales price.