“Yahoo! strongly believes that consumers want choice when customizing their
online experience and they have also demonstrated a strong preference for
advertising that is more personally relevant to them,” said Yahoo! privacy head
and policy VP Anne Toth in
a press release. “However, we understand that there are some users who
prefer not to receive customized advertising and this opt-out will offer them
even greater choice.”
Users already have the ability of opting out of “customized” ads on
Yahoo.com and this new option will extend that choice to reflect websites
outside the Yahoo! stable.
Yahoo! says it added the choice in response to an ongoing congressional
inquiry into behavioral advertising – that is, tracking users around the
internet in order to build an advertising profile from their activities – of
which critics have raised privacy concerns.
Government regulators initially began their examination of targeted
advertising once it became clear that ad networks were collecting staggering
amounts of data on web surfers, in order to serve them relevant advertising.
Some of this tracking included a record of partnered sites the user had
visited, a fact that contributed to the U.S. government’s decision to step in.
An FTC summit into “ehavioral” advertising last November concluded with a
dour warning to online advertisers: stop
secretly tracking users, or else. Additional rules were suggested
earlier this year; however, neither the FTC nor Congress has yet to enact
any significant regulation on the matter.
Users who wish to opt out of Yahoo!’s targeted ad program can visit
Yahoo.com’s privacy center, which Yahoo! says is available at a link on the
bottom of almost every page on the site. Despite this availability, however,
suggesting that only a small portion of Yahoo.com visits will actually take the
company up on its offer.
Yahoo’s letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee indicates that the
opt-out option is cookie-based, so users will need to use the opt-out page each
time they use a different computer, or clear their browser’s cookies.