We’ve Moved!

July 23rd, 2013

We’ve moved! As of today, the Yahoo! Policy official blog has moved to yahoopolicy.tumblr.com. Come on over and check out the new digs!

In Support of a Personalized User Experience

October 26th, 2012

Our policy has changed since this blog was first published. For more please visit our Tumblr.

At Yahoo!, we aspire to make the world’s daily habits more inspiring and entertaining. Our users have come to expect a personalized Yahoo! experience tailor-made for their lives — whether they’re checking local weather, sports scores, stock quotes, daily news, or viewing ads on our site. We fundamentally believe that the online experience is better when it is personalized.

That said, we also believe that there should be an easy and transparent way for users to express their privacy preferences to Yahoo!. That’s why we offer our own tools and resources such as Ad Interest Manager, to give users more control over personalized advertising on Yahoo!, and why we participate in industry-wide programs such as AdChoices, which allows users to learn why they’ve been shown an ad.

Yahoo! has been working with our partners in the Internet industry to come up with a standard that allows users to opt out of certain website analytics and ad targeting. In principle, we support “Do Not Track” (DNT). Unfortunately, because discussions have not yet resulted in a final standard for how to implement DNT, the current DNT signal can easily be abused. Recently, Microsoft unilaterally decided to turn on DNT in Internet Explorer 10 by default, rather than at users’ direction. In our view, this degrades the experience for the majority of users and makes it hard to deliver on our value proposition to them. It basically means that the DNT signal from IE10 doesn’t express user intent.

Ultimately, we believe that DNT must map to user intent — not to the intent of one browser creator, plug-in writer, or third-party software service. Therefore, although Yahoo! will continue to offer Ad Interest Manager and other tools, we will not recognize IE10’s default DNT signal on Yahoo! properties at this time.

Yahoo! is committed to working with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to reach a DNT standard that both satisfies user expectations and provides the best Internet experience possible. We will closely evaluate our support for DNT as the industry makes progress in reaching a meaningful, transparent standard to promote choice, reduce signal abuse, and deliver great personalized experiences for our users.

Yahoo Joins with Polaris Project to Provide Users with Resources on Reporting Instances of Human Trafficking

June 14th, 2012

Yahoo! has been a longtime industry leader in online safety. Fostering safer online experiences continues to be one of Yahoo!’s primary concerns, particularly as the Internet plays a larger role in the everyday life of children. As kids spend more and more time online, searching for help with schoolwork or just staying in touch with friends, parents and educators are also looking for new tools and resources to protect children from online harm. As part of Yahoo!’s commitment to protecting children online, we collaborate with child safety advocates and law enforcement, including an on-going, multi-faceted partnership with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). Ten years ago Yahoo! collaborated with NCMEC to help disseminate AMBER alerts to Yahoo!’s powerful network of millions of people around the world. The AMBER Alert program has been credited with the safe recovery of 525 children nationwide.

Recently, we announced our latest initiative in providing our users with additional online safety resources. Working with the Polaris Project and the Office of the California Attorneys General, we now provide information directing users to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) when users search for certain terms associated with human trafficking. Users will be given contact information for NHTRC which is operated by the Polaris Project. The NHTRC hotline is the single most effective national resource to identify and support victims of trafficking. This national, toll-free, victim-centered hotline is available to answer calls from anywhere in the U.S., 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and in more than 170 languages. Trained call specialists are on constant standby to link human trafficking victims to shelter and other resources that provide safety and protection. The hotline also fields tips of suspected human trafficking cases and provides information, training and technical assistance to diverse audiences. THE NHRTC has been extremely successful in helping victims and law enforcement:

  • The national human trafficking hotline has received more than 53,000 calls nationwide and 5,650 calls from California, since Polaris Project began operating it in December 2007.
  • The hotline has connected almost 6,200 trafficking victims to services across the country.
  • The hotline receives more calls from California than any other state.
  • In 2011, almost 20% of callers nationwide who reported potential human trafficking cases found the hotline number through an Internet search.

Unfortunately, the Internet is not immune from crime that has traditionally occurred in the offline world. But at Yahoo! we will continue to take steps to address online crime by providing information and resources to our users, and by coordinating with law enforcement and groups like Polaris to help bring predators to justice.

Yahoo! Brings New Interest Tool to the Media Mix

May 10th, 2012

Yahoo! has begun testing a conceptual approach for users to share what content they would be most interested in receiving via Media Interest Manager (MIM).  In its initial incarnation, MIM is available to select users of Yahoo! News via News for You and gives those users the ability to declare their interests and receive some content that is personalized based on those interests.

Media Interest Manager is only available to a limited number of random users at this time and requires that you be logged-into your Yahoo! account to access the tool.  If you’re one of the lucky few that have access, you’ll be able to select from 100 interest categories (you can change these at any time).

It’s important to note that our interest based advertising and content opt-out (Ad Interest Manager) does not affect the interests you declare within MIM.   If the opt-out is selected, MIM will not override your preference, but will tailor your experience based on your MIM interest selections.  To stop using MIM simply deselect all previously highlighted media interests and close the tool.

We’re excited to be expanding our privacy suite of Interest Managers with the addition of MIM.  This release demonstrates Yahoo’s continued commitment to extend more choices to users to further customize their Yahoo! experiences.  This is very much an early concept release and you should expect to see tremendous evolution of Media Interest Manager throughout 2012 and beyond!

Shane Wiley
VP, Privacy & Data Governance

Yahoo! Leads Charge On ‘Do Not Track’ Proposal

April 19th, 2012

At Yahoo!, consumer privacy is paramount. We have the track record to prove it.

Yahoo! and many others in our industry — in partnership with trade association leadership, consumer advocates, academics, and regulators — have been working diligently to develop technical specifications and compliance guidelines for the implementation of the ‘Do Not Track’ signal.  In a recent Wall Street Journal article, an editor chose what we see as a misleading headline that has led some to unfortunately believe that Yahoo! and industry are somehow not supportive of responding to the ‘Do Not Track’ browser signal.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Put simply, Yahoo! was among the first to announce that we would support and implement a robust response to the ‘Do Not Track’ browser signal, and we also fully support the implementation of workable, universal standards.   The road to such standards is never easy, but we have been leading the way and will continue to do so.  The process of developing the ‘Do Not Track’ standard is on-going within the World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C.  Most recently in face-to-face meetings in Washington, DC, multiple proposals for key issues such as first party and third party definition and permitted uses of data were discussed.  There were five proposals in total; I was a lead author on one of those proposals.  It’s unfair – and inaccurate — to state since Yahoo! and others offered one proposal, that we are somehow attacking other proposals.  In fact, commonality was found in some of the leading proposals and the working group is in the process of finalizing common language.  This is a process of working together to maximize user privacy protections while minimizing expansive costs to the Internet where vast amounts of free content are available to consumers.  This is not, as the Wall Street Journal headline suggests, about one or more companies “leading charges against” ‘Do Not Track’.  This is about working on and advocating for the best possible standard for consumers and for the Internet.

While the misleading headline may get more attention for the Wall Street Journal, we wanted to set the record straight that Yahoo! continues to support the W3C Tracking Protection Working Group and the multi-stakeholder process it embodies.  For us, working hard to earn and keep the trust of our users is just plain common sense. 

Shane Wiley
VP, Privacy & Data Governance

Yahoo! Launches Global Support for Do Not Track

March 29th, 2012

Yahoo! is excited to be one of the first large online companies to announce live, global support for Do Not Track (DNT)! This commitment continues our leadership in user privacy where Yahoo! was among the first to launch an Ad Interest Manager (3 years ago) and followed this up by being the first to support the AdChoices Icon program (2 years ago).

Yahoo’s DNT solution has been in development since last year and is implemented in-line with Digital Advertising Alliance’s (DAA) principles which provide guidelines for the appropriate use of online behavioral advertising (also called “interest-based” advertising) and multi-site data – AND – our proposal to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the international standards body that manages many of the technical elements of the Internet. Of course, we will continue to follow further DNT-related developments in the U.S., Europe, and elsewhere very closely.

How does it work?
If you’re using a more recent web browser you may have an option to set a DNT preference (location varies by browser). If you activate this feature, the DNT signal is sent to our servers when you view websites where Yahoo! collects data. When our servers receive the DNT signal, this activates our existing opt-out process. With DNT turned on, Yahoo! will no longer score your activities for advertising or content interests and no longer personalize your ads and content based on those interest scores.

Yahoo! is deeply committed to innovation and bringing world class experiences to our users. To do this, Yahoo! will continue to collect information for purposes such as fraud and security, financial reporting, and to improve our products for your benefit. It’s important to note that you will continue to see ads — but without the advantage of being personalized to your ad interests.

NOTE: Curious to learn what we believe your ad interests are? Please check out Ad Interest Manager to view and manage your ad interests or opt-out.

When will the rollout be completed?
We’ve already begun the implementation process and will continue the rollout to our systems around the globe with completion targeted for early summer. Several of our advertising platforms (Right Media and interclick) and properties already support the DNT standard – with more adding support every week. Once you come into contact with a system that supports DNT, your opt-out will be set and apply to your interactions with Yahoo! going forward.

The Yahoo! Privacy Team is proud of our history in providing enhanced transparency through the AdChoices Icon program and now providing enhanced control through Do Not Track (and Ad Interest Manager). We’d like to thank our product and engineering teams for their efforts to make DNT a reality for users and to our executive team for supporting us along the way.

Shane Wiley
VP, Privacy & Data Governance

As Industry Leader, Yahoo! Applauds White House focus on Privacy

February 23rd, 2012

We are pleased the White House is holding a privacy event today. It is encouraging to see such high level attention from the Administration as it helpfully looks to elevate the U.S. voice and perspective within the broader global discussion of privacy frameworks. It is critically important that modern privacy protection frameworks recognize that innovation in our global information economy will require thoughtful and responsible collection and use of data. It is also critical that self-regulatory structures play a large and growing role within these frameworks.

Let’s focus on self-regulation for a moment. Industry has made incredible strides in just a few years – implementing a code to give users contextual notice and controls over online behavioral advertising. This effort requires advertisers, publishers, ad networks and many other players to take responsibility and to accept a role in presenting consumers with an Ad Choices icon which, when clicked, tells them more about what is going on behind the scenes in ad delivery and gives them an opportunity to opt out of the use of their data for this kind of customized advertising. With a single click, the opt-out can apply to the vast majority of systems serving such ads today. No more need to opt out from every website individually or ad serving entity. This is a huge improvement for consumers uncomfortable with this practice. These icons are now nearly ubiquitous across the web, and certainly across Yahoo.com.

But industry players did not stop there. We have clearly and demonstrably answered the call from policymakers to bring more certainty to an understanding of the use of Do Not Track technology while providing consumers the services and innovation they expect and demand.

The Digital Advertising Alliance has introduced a new code on the collection and use of Multisite Data (http://www.aboutads.info/msdprinciples) which addresses these issues. This code has strict prohibitions on the collection, use or transfer of such data to determine adverse terms or ineligibility for employment, credit, housing or insurance. It further touches on sensitive data including the personal information of children, health records, and financial account records. It acknowledges there are some operational or systems management purposes for which companies will always need to collect data like fraud prevention, billing, or consumer safety. Yahoo! is proud to have been a key advocate for many of the provisions of this new code. Once again, industry’s proactive efforts on privacy have raised the bar.

As industry moves forward to address new issues in the marketplace through codes of practice, consumers benefit from timely implementation of broad-based changes that can be readily enforced by the FTC. We are gratified to see Administration and FTC statements embracing these self-regulatory efforts as an important step in protecting consumers’ privacy online, which signals that we are on the right track. While there is a lot to be worked out and the devil is always in the details, we appreciate the work they’ve done and the recognition that self-regulation has been working.

We understand the online landscape is constantly evolving. As an innovator in the online space, Yahoo! will continue to be at the forefront of industry best practices and self-regulatory initiatives. It is the best and quickest way to introduce protections into the marketplace without sacrificing innovation and value creation for consumers. We commend the Administration for its understanding that such codes are a key ingredient in a successful privacy framework for the information age. Yahoo! will continue to be at the very front of efforts to give consumers the transparency and choices they want while continuing to create innovative, free products every day.

vp, privacy, policy and trust at Yahoo!

International Data Privacy Day is January 28

January 27th, 2012

Tomorrow January 28 and in the coming weeks many countries will be celebrating International Data Privacy Day. To celebrate this day and honor the spirit of promoting awareness about privacy and best practices in this area, this year we chose to put the focus on the Spanish speaking Americas, due to the attention and momentum that privacy keeps gaining in this side of the world. Not only the right to “Habeas Data” has been widely recognized across the region but countries like Argentina, Mexico, Uruguay, Colombia, Peru and Costa Rica have take a step further in developing and enacting comprehensive data protection laws. It is therefore not by coincidence that the International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners took place in Mexico in 2011 and will take place in Uruguay in 2012.

At Yahoo! we have always taken privacy very seriously. Privacy is a core element in building our users’ trust, which is in turn core to us. We build our world-class products with privacy and trust in mind, and in order to succeed we strongly believe that the very first targets of education and awareness should be within the very inside of our company. This is why on February 1st the Yahoo! Miami office will host an invitation-only discussion on the latest global and regional developments in privacy. We will share perspective on how Yahoo! has maintained the hard earned role as a leader in building and maintaining user trust, how Yahoo! innovates with privacy in mind to give users transparency and choice in their online experiences, and what the landscape looks like for the online industry, as well as an overview of legislation affecting user privacy especially those affecting Latin America. There will be a Q&A session and the event will be videotaped – all in Spanish – for audiences unable to attend.

director, international privacy for Yahoo!

The Life of an Ad Interest

December 22nd, 2011

The Yahoo! Privacy team sometimes receives the question of how long we retain a web browser’s ad interests. The answer is a bit complicated but I’d like to take a moment to review the life of an ad interest and how for the most part that life is a fairly short one – typically less than a few weeks.

Before an ad interest can be determined, a category must first be created. Yahoo! has nearly 400 standard interest categories in the US (these can viewed from Ad Interest Manager). Categories fall across a range of topics such as iPods, Ford Trucks, Kitchen Remodeling or European Travel interests. Once a category is created, the next step is scoring interest in that category.

The birth of an ad interest begins when an interest scoring rule is triggered in our backend ad interest systems. Only a few key events are reviewed for scoring today: searches, page view, ad views, and ad clicks. Note – our new mail system processes email keywords similarly to “searches”. These events are funneled to a special set of servers at Yahoo! which score each event for interest in a category. Each category may give different scores to different events. For example, for an interest in Gifting Flowers the system will typically weight a search higher than a page view, whereas the Truck interest category may score a visit to the Yahoo! Autos site higher than a generic “truck” search. The resulting event score is then added to the existing score for an ad interest in relationship to an anonymous browser cookie.

Once an event has been scored for an ad interest it is held in these systems for a short period of time just in case something fails and data needs to be reprocessed. After a few days the raw event information is purged from these systems and only the resulting scores remain. It’s important to note that when a user opts-out of receiving interest-based ads, their activity is no longer sent to our backend ad interest systems for scoring (this includes from the new Yahoo! Mail platform) AND ads are no longer selected for that user based on interests.

Now that we have a score for an ad interest, the question of its life span can be addressed. Ad interest scores at Yahoo! “decay” – meaning that each day that goes by, each ad interest category will slowly reduce its score for a browser cookie. Each ad interest category has a different decay rate – tied to how long it typically takes to make a purchase decision. For example, an interest in Gifting Flowers may live a very short period of time – less than a week. Whereas an interest in Trucks lasts longer. While most ad interest categories will decay out scores within a few weeks, the maximum decay is about 90 days.

Interest scoring and decaying are always occurring at the same time. On some days activities may increase the score in a particular ad interest category while other interests are decaying because no activity occurs in relationship to them. If a browser cookie event isn’t processed through our backend systems for 90 days, all ad interests for that browser cookie will decay out.

That’s it! In quick review, the steps are: ad interest category creation, select event scoring, raw data purging, and category interest decay.

To learn more about other forms of log data retention at Yahoo!, please read this blog article.

To learn more about interest based advertising at Yahoo!, view what we believe your ad interests are, and see other general ad interest related information, please visit http://privacy.yahoo.com/aim .

Shane Wiley
VP, Privacy & Data Governance

Anne Toth Talks Privacy at pii2011

May 26th, 2011

Yahoo!’s Chief Trust Officer discusses privacy in the digital age with top representatives across Internet companies, media, think tanks, associations and more at pii2011.