Archive for January, 2010

Yahoo! Europe’s Ad Interest Manager and European Public Policy

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Yahoo! was very pleased to participate in a recent IAPP-hosted conference entitled “The New EU Cookie Consent Law – What is Your Strategy?” Rosa Barcelo, a Senior Lawyer in the European Data Protection Supervisor’s Office and Eduardo Ustaran, Partner and Head of the Privacy and Information Law Group, Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP rounded out the engaging discussion allowing me to give a company perspective on the issue.

The conversation focused on European public policy debates about cookies – what they are, how they are used to power products and services on a website, where this fits within emerging European legal framework(s) and what controls exist for users around such technologies? The group discussed where we’ve been under the earlier ePrivacy Directive, and where we may be going to reinforce website users’ meaningful control over their online experience.

An amendment to the ePrivacy Directive recently passed into law requires consent of Internet users before programs (including cookie files) can be placed on their computers. All that remains for the law to go into force is implementation on the local level by the EU Member States over the next 18 months. Over the coming year, the public policy community will look at current practices, emerging consumer transparency and control mechanisms, and the evolution of consumer privacy communications as an indicator of how Member States and companies themselves will manifest this “update” to the Directive through real consumer enhancements.

It was against this backdrop that I was glad to share the recent BETA versions of Yahoo!’s own work in this arena, in the form of Yahoo!’s Ad Interest Manager. Now available on Yahoo!’s French, Spanish, Italian, German, UK and Ireland sites, Ad Interest Manager takes an innovative approach to consumer transparency and control around interest-based advertising. As our users will see, these tools provide an unprecedented view into both the advertising categories used to choose the most relevant ads for them on our websites, but also a view into the information used to make those decisions. Powered with this information, users can exercise strong control over both the individual categories assigned for their browser and the interest-based advertising program a whole.

Thanks again to Ms. Barcelo, Mr. Ustaran and the rest of the team at the IAPP for a thoughtful and informative session!

If interested in hearing more about this conversation, the conference was recorded and is available on the IAPP website.

On a related upcoming note, Chris Sherwood—Yahoo!’s Public Policy Director in Brussels–will be speaking at a meeting of the European Parliament’s new Privacy Platform on Wednesday Jan 27th, specifically about our Ad Interest Manager project and the innovations that we’ve brought to our European consumers through these tools. The event is entitled “awareness and empowerment: the role of users in privacy protection.” Anyone interested in attending should contact Sophie In ‘t Veld, MEP.

Justin B. Weiss
Director – International Privacy
Yahoo! Inc.

2009 in Review

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

Happy New Year!  Yahoo! is very excited about all of the progress we made in 2009 and look forward to an equally productive year for consumer privacy in 2010.

Here is a look back at some of Yahoo!’s big wins for consumers in 2009…

User Transparency:

  • We launched Ad Interest Manager ( which offers users unparalleled insight into their activities at Yahoo! and more control over Yahoo’s use of data for display interest based advertising.
  • We added a new footer link called “About Our Ads” to almost every page at Yahoo! so that more information about our ad personalization and serving practices – including a link to the Ad Interest Manager is just a click away.
  • We served nearly 2 BILLION public service announcement ads across Yahoo! explaining our ad personalization and serving practices – including a link to user controls for interest based advertising.
  • We refreshed the look and feel of the Privacy Center in the US and are in the process of rolling out these updates globally.
  • Yahoo!, in collaboration with the ad industry, launched experiments in new forms of user notice in close proximity to ads (check out the “AdChoice” link at

User Control:

  • Yahoo! allowed logged in users to make their opt-out choice persistent.  For users who select to do so, they can associate their opt-out with their Yahoo! account – this means the opt out will be refreshed each time a user logs in on any computer or device.
  • We extended the opt-out to our mobile platform – including persistence for logged in users.  This allows user choice to seamlessly flow across computing devices.
  • We changed opt-out cookie expiration dates from the standard 2 years we apply to Yahoo! cookies to 20 years so that opt-out cookies are less likely to expire – making user preferences more durable.
  • We updated our web servers and data handling processes to remove opted-out user activity from our ad interest systems.

Data Anonymization:

  • While not strictly in 2009 Yahoo! announced a game changing user data log retention policy in late 2008 to anonymize user data log events (searches, ad views, ad clicks, page views, and page clicks) within 90 days (with some exceptions for security and fraud abuse detection and defense needs and to meet legal obligations).
  • We’ve made great strides in 2009 and are on track for implementing anonymization across Yahoo! systems in 2010.

Shane Wiley
Sr. Director – Privacy & Data Governance

Yahoo!’s Mobile Safety Tips

Friday, January 15th, 2010

During this holiday season, a slew of new mobile devices were brought into the home and put into the hands of teens.   And its no big surprise — kids today rely on mobile devices to engage with the Internet, consume information, and connect with friends and family members.  According to an August 2009 Pew Internet & American Life Project research study, cell phone usage among teens ages 12 – 17 is up 26 percentage points from 2004 to 2008.  And by the age of 17, eight in ten teens (84%) have their own cell phone.  With access to these powerful communication tools, teens need to be empowered and educated on how to be digital citizens, how to manage their online reputations, and how to make personal mobile safety a priority.

At Yahoo!, we recognize this need for education – among kids and parents – and we have developed this list of mobile safety tips.  We have been working closely with national child safety advocates, law enforcement agencies, educational leaders, and parents to help coach youth about protecting their online personas and creating a safer online experience.

  1. Think before you send. Stop, and think before you share a thought or forward a photo.  Imagine your grandmother or principal on the receiving end.
  2. Protect your personal information. When you send email, texts, photos or instant messages to people who are not trusted friends or family, don’t give out personal information they could use to find your physical location or exploit you. Guard your password like a hawk.
  3. Control negativity.  Think carefully about who you want to communicate with and who you should ignore.  Yahoo! Mail and Yahoo! Messenger have features that allow you to block people. If you receive abusive or harassing messages online, report the abuse where and when you see it.
  4. Use Safe Search. Yahoo! offers a default Safe Search filter to help keep inappropriate content out of your search results. While no filter can guarantee 100% removal of all inappropriate content, using a filter like Safe Search will make a big difference in keeping unwanted material out of your search results.
  5. Download applications from trusted sources only! If you download software from a third party, be sure to only download applications from developers you trust. And, read their Terms of Service and privacy policies to really understand what you’re giving them permission to do when you download their app.
  6. Never Text while Driving. This should be obvious, but you’d have to have super hero powers to be able to read, type and drive at the same time, not to mention that it’s illegal in some states.

For more detailed information about mobile safety, check out the blogs and guidelines on Yahoo! Safely, and the excellent content on texting and sexting provided by our partners at and

Catherine Teitelbaum, Yahoo!’s Director of Child Safety and Product Policy