If you need more proof of how competitors are constantly watching one another, you have it right here. In what a few spectators are calling a move to follow in Google’s footsteps, Yahoo! has given its popular webmail product some significant enhancements. The internet giant recently launched an update that promises to improve the email experience for its users and make it more profitable for its advertising partners. From Email Security to Email Targeting So what’s new? Well for starters, Yahoo! will be utilizing the same keyword scanning technology it uses to identify spam, malware and phishing emails to create targeted advertisements across its ad network and within the mail product. The search company is hoping that the new improved system will increase ad interaction among email users who are viewing advertisements that are more relevant to them. This scan technology will also be employed to scan instant messages and SMS text messages that come through Yahoo’s other messaging clients. To no surprise the mere thought of email scanning and sharing data with third-party partners has brought up talk of privacy concerns. Apparently this is something Yahoo! was prepared for as the updated Mail product will require users to consent to the target advertising by opting-in, allowing them to control the ads they receive via the company’s new Ad Interest Manager. Even more interesting is the addition of an application that provides a way for users to easily opt-out of the newsletters and mailing lists they are subscribed to. Instead of going through the process of clicking a link and traveling out of the inbox, users will be able to unsubscribe to email communications by simply dragging and dropping a message to a folder that automatically handles the opt-out procedure. How Email Marketers Are Affected According to David McDowell, Yahoo Mail Senior Director of Product Management, the new opt-in-based permissions policy applies to all of the company’s communications products, including the updated webmail client, Yahoo Messenger and its mobile applications. McDowell said the decision to put more control in the hands of the user is related to the fact that consumers these days are bogged down with so many email messages. While the policy will certainly help users who want to clear out the clutter, it could make it harder for some email marketers to make an impact in the inbox. With the ability to easily unsubscribe from mailings, senders whose content lacks relevance may not only be tuned out, but lose subscribers in the form of those who decide to use the new drag-and-drop function to opt-out. The new version of Yahoo Mail, which was launched as a beta product to select users last October, will be rolled out to the company’s 280 million plus users around the globe in the coming weeks. While the internet powerhouse is obviously looking for a way to drive up advertising revenue, improving targeting through email scanning clearly could not work without easing the consumer’s privacy fears in the process. As a result of Yahoo’s mission to keep both its advertisers and user base happy, email marketers will have to step up their game and increase the focus on relevance.