Archive for February, 2011

Yahoo! Submits Public Comments on the Federal Trade Commission’s Staff Paper on Internet Privacy

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Last Friday, Yahoo! submitted comments on the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) recently distributed staff paper titled, Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change: A Proposed Framework for Business and Policymakers. We provided the FTC our thoughts and recommendations on the policy positions outlined in the staff paper as well as highlighted areas that need further consideration and evaluation by the FTC.

Privacy has been part of Yahoo!’s DNA since our founding.  We have been at the forefront of protecting our users online for almost two decades and addressing privacy concerns is an issue that we have always taken seriously. We believe that our comprehensive approach to customization across a variety of platforms and our efforts to integrate privacy protections directly into our offerings help provide the best experiences for users in the new digital world, a world that exists beyond traditional geographic boundaries.

Privacy is an extremely complex issue with many dimensions and layers that are context and user specific. There is rarely a one size fits all approach because consumers have different attitudes and different preferences.  What is critical is to offer transparency, privacy tools and education to consumers while still allowing businesses the flexibility to offer the kinds of products that consumers demand and to do so in a way that preserves the consumer benefits of free online content and services.  Our comments highlight the complexity of the debate and the finer nuances of the issues at hand, particularly about concepts like Do Not Track and Privacy By Design.

‘Do Not Track’ (DNT) has been in the news and on the minds of legislators, media and online companies.  In fact, the three major browser companies have recently introduced proposals for DNT.  Simplified choice for consumers is the goal of DNT proposals and Yahoo! agrees with this objective.  However, a key concern for online companies is that some DNT proposals eliminate the basic collection of user data; a scenario that creates barriers not only to routine Internet operations, but also to basic fraud detection and prevention processes.

Aside from browser provided controls, there are well-developed Web-based tools that offer strong protections that should not be ignored. The Digital Advertising Alliance’s Advertising Option Icon program is the strongest approach to DNT available today, and least likely to undermine the benefits of Online Behavioral Advertising, which the FTC indicates is also one of their goals for DNT.  The Advertising Option Icon program already covers the vast majority of the advertising marketplace that uses behavioral targeting tools, and the implementation is growing in size and scope. In this program, ad markers take users to information and choices about advertising – an unprecedented effort to allow users to make choices on an industry-wide basis.  As the program continues to roll out, additional educational efforts will help users better understand the meaning of the symbols they see in or around online ads.  Yahoo! will be doing its part; we have displayed an advertising label and icon over one-trillion times on the Yahoo! networks of sites alone.  Yahoo! believes this effort is a strong answer to calls for DNT through enforceable self-regulation and should be further encouraged by the FTC.

Our thoughts on the concept of Privacy by Design (PBD) are also outlined in our comments.  PBD is illustrated by applying privacy considerations throughout the entire life cycle of technologies and procedures.  We support this idea of PBD and consider it to already be a fundamental component of how our products and services are developed. Yahoo! considers the privacy of our users when innovating and providing online experiences, and we have always believed that PBD allows us to address privacy concerns when we build protections into the product architecture.

Consumer education remains at the heart of these issues, and is an important part of the privacy conversation as well.  Many choices are available to consumers through Web tools, browser tools, and contextual features in existing products and services.  Yahoo! helps empower consumers to use these simple to use and easy to access tools by making available additional supporting information – providing the education and background many users desire. These efforts are fundamental to our continuing efforts to build trust with our users.

Yahoo!’s full comments can be accessed at http://www.ftc.gov/os/comments/privacyreportframework/00444.html.

Anne Toth, Chief Trust Officer, Yahoo! Inc.

Yahoo! Supports Safer Internet Day 2011 with Global Online Safety Resources

Monday, February 7th, 2011

Fostering safe online experiences is more important than ever as young people are among the first to adopt the technology and gadgets entering our homes.  Children as young as 15 months are playing with iPads, approximately 1 in 3 teens in the US are sending over 3000/texts a month and sadly, cyberbullying incidents are on the rise. Parents and educators across the globe are looking for practical advice and solutions on how to foster children’s online safety with today’s always on, always available technology.

This year, during global Safer Internet Day on Feb. 8, 2011, the industry will be coming together to help educate families and promote safer and more responsible use of online technology and mobile phones among children and youth.

Online safety is a priority for Yahoo! and we are celebrating global Safer Internet Day by introducing Yahoo! Safely in 26 countries across 14 languages providing parents, educators and youth with information and advice about making smart choices online.  As one of the only global safety resources, Yahoo! Safely offers locally relevant advice on important topics such as managing digital reputations, avoiding cyber-bullying, and learning how to minimize risks on mobile devices.

Yahoo! Safely - Stay Safer Online (and have fun)!

In the Middle East, Yahoo! Maktoob is also launching a localized online safety resource called Yahoo! Safety Oasis. Yahoo! Safety Oasis educates Arabic-speaking children about how to properly surf the net and protect their personal privacy through a series of fun, interactive edu-tainment courses offered through a number of Yahoo! Maktoob channels.

Last year, Yahoo!’s online safety survey revealed that parents are in fact doing their part  with 70% of parents talking to their children about online safety 2-3 times a year.  Now Yahoo! Safely and Yahoo! Safety Oasis give parents and educators around the world the tools and guidance to have these ongoing and productive conversations with their children.

It’s important that we work together as a global community to help create a safer and positive online experience for our children. We are thrilled to be able to make an impact and help raise global awareness around Safer Internet Day 2011.

Catherine Teitelbaum, Yahoo!’s director of child safety and product policy