Yahoo Mail: When Does a “Walled Garden” Become a Data Prison?

business_ethics_highlights_2Some tech industry business models are “walled gardens”—to enjoy the benefits of the service you have to enter the garden, but once in the garden it’s cumbersome to leave. Apple’s iTunes/iCloud ecosystem and Evernote are examples of useful services that are easy to get your data and media into and hard to get out of.

Enter Yahoo Mail. A free email service offered by Yahoo for nearly two decades, Yahoo Mail until recently included a forwarding function permitting users to redirect their Yahoo email to another email account. At the beginning of October, as Yahoo reels from the revelations that Yahoo Mail was the target of a successful hack compromising millions of accounts and that Yahoo facilitated government surveillance of Yahoo Mail accounts, Yahoo Mail users finds that mail forwarding has been disabled. While Yahoo claims it is working to improve the forwarding service, others suspect their data is being held hostage to boost Yahoo’s value as it seeks to facilitate a possible acquisition by Verizon.

The linked piece could be used in the classroom to explore the ethics of walled gardens. Are walled-garden services inherently unethical? Does the degree of difficulty in getting data and media out of the garden matter to the ethical assessment? Does it matter whether a walled-garden service is free, freemium, or a for-a-fee service? >>>

LINK: Amid breach talk, some Yahoo users finding it hard to exit (by RAPHAEL SATTER for AP News)

As Yahoo’s embattled email service suffers through a slew of bad news, including a hack that compromised more than 500 million accounts, some users are finding it hard to leave.

Automatic email forwarding was disabled at the beginning of the month, several users told The Associated Press. While those who’ve set up forwarding in the past are unaffected, some who want to leave over recent hacking and surveillance revelations are struggling to switch to rival services.

“This is all extremely suspicious timing,” said Jason Danner, who runs an information technology business in Auckland, New Zealand, and is trying to quit Yahoo after 18 years with the email provider.

Yahoo Inc. initially declined to comment on the recent change beyond pointing to a three-line notice on Yahoo’s help site which says that that the company temporarily disabled the feature “while we work to improve it.”

What do you think?

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