Archive for the ‘Privacy’ Category

In Support of a Personalized User Experience

Friday, October 26th, 2012

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! Brings New Interest Tool to the Media Mix

Thursday, 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

Thursday, 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

Thursday, 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

The Life of an Ad Interest

Thursday, 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 .

Shane Wiley
VP, Privacy & Data Governance

Updating our Log File Data Retention Policy to Put Data to Work for Consumers

Friday, April 15th, 2011

Today, Yahoo! is making an announcement of our intention to change our log file data retention policy to meet the needs of our consumers for personalization and relevance, while living up to their expectations of trust.  Over the last 3 years, the way we and other companies offer services online and the way consumers experience the Internet has changed dramatically.  So, we will keep our log file data longer than we have been – offering consumers a more robust individualized experience – while we continue our innovation in the areas of transparency and choice to protect privacy.  We believe it’s a move forward for Yahoo! and our users.

In late 2008, after a careful review of our data systems and needs and after a great deal of discussion among policymakers about how long search companies should hold search log file data, Yahoo! announced a log file data retention policy that set us apart from the rest of our industry. We worked to minimize our log file retention to 90-days for most log file data, noting certain exceptions where we hold raw data for up to 6 months for fraud and security purposes and as long as necessary to meet our legal obligations. Our goal with this log file data retention policy was to continue to offer best-in-class, competitive products while striving to minimize how much raw data we held.

Today our goals remain the same – keep data as long as we need to and meet our consumers’ expectations on trust. While these things are fundamental to us, over the past several years it’s clear that the Internet has changed, our business has changed, and the competitive landscape has changed.  We have been reevaluating our log file data retention policy in light of these changes and as a result of this review we are moving to align our log file data retention policy closer to the competitive norm across the industry.  That means that after this new policy goes into effect, we will no longer apply the 90-day retention policy to raw search logs or other log file data.  We will hold raw search log files for 18 months and we will be closely examining what the right policy and time frame should be for other log file data.  In announcing this change, we have gone back to the drawing board to ensure that our policies will support the innovative products we want to deliver for our consumers.

Yahoo! has not been standing still on privacy. Over the past 3 years we have focused enormous resources on front-end transparency and meaningful choice for consumers. This is evidenced by our Ad Interest Manager tool and our commitment to CLEAR Ad Notice – privacy icons delivered with ads all across the Yahoo! network to give users control over customized advertising. We are continuing to improve these tools, are active in discussions on how to integrate browser-based Do-Not-Track tools into existing privacy models, and are working on even more consumer tools within Yahoo! products designed to put more control our users’ hands.  Privacy has always been a core value of this company.

Transparency with our users is the foundation of what builds trust. That’s why we are telling our users about these changes now, well ahead of when they go into effect. In the next 4-6 weeks we will begin rolling out notifications across Yahoo! to ensure that we have given clear and understandable notice to our consumers of this change in our policy.  Thirty days after we have completed these notifications, we will put the new policy into effect.  We expect this will occur sometime in mid-to-late July.

No policy exists in a vacuum and every company has to continually reevaluate what serves its consumers best over time. Changes like these are never undertaken lightly. We at Yahoo! are incredibly proud of the innovative new products we have launched and have lined up in the coming months for our users around the globe. We have a world-class research team using data to improve consumer experiences. We have a product team dedicated to innovative new products and features like Search Direct and Livestand.  And we remain one of the most visited and trusted sites in the world. We want to stay that way by putting our users’ data to work for them to make every visit to Yahoo! better than the last.

Anne Toth
Chief Trust Officer

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CLEAR Ad Notice and Do Not Track Together

Friday, April 1st, 2011

Yahoo!  submitted a discussion proposal today to the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) to consider  one possible approach to combining the CLEAR Ad Notice program supported by the nearly 6,000 members of the Digital Advertising Initiative with the newly released Do Not Track features in web browsers.

Industry’s efforts to deploy the Advertising Option Icon have gained significant momentum.  Yahoo! has surpassed 1.5 TRILLION impressions of the icon ourselves and has recently expanded coverage to the EU.  Google recently announced upcoming icon coverage for all of AdSense ads being served on hundreds of thousands websites.   Most major web browsers recently released features that align with calls for a “Do Not Track” solution to online behavioral advertising – although each company has taken a different approach to tackle the challenge.  Yahoo!’s  goal is to try to find a way to combine the best of the new browser-based approaches with the existing Advertising Option Icon developed with the cooperation of thousands of companies participating in the Digital Advertising Alliance.

While competition between companies over privacy practices can drive positive developments for consumers, in this case a better outcome for consumers is to converge on a single approach to exercise control over online behavioral advertising.  A single approach can reduce consumer confusion and better align the user experience with the consistency of the CLEAR Ad Notice program managed by the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA).  Therefore, we propose that web browser developers align behind a single Do Not Track approach to increase consumer awareness through education and exposure to these features.

Advertising fuels the vast majority of free content and experiences available to consumers across the Internet today.  The sites that invest the time, energy, employees, and technology to provide these free experiences have a critical perspective and must be partners in the conversation with the companies that develop web browsers. All stakeholders should seek to find solutions that provide consumer privacy protections and continue to support a content publisher’s ability to monetize their efforts.

Yahoo! strongly supports the standards development process and is submitting these recommendations in the hope that vigorous, enlightened, respectful debate ensues to drive consensus towards a solution that meets the needs of consumers, publishers, advertisers, and the parties that support each.

Shane Wiley
Sr. Director – Privacy & Data Governance

Moving Forward-i with CLEAR Ad Notice

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

Yahoo! is excited to further our commitment to increased transparency and control by updating our implementation of the Advertising Option Icon (CLEAR Ad Notice) to the “Forward-i” icon recently announced by the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA). CLEAR Ad Notice provides users a simple link on or near an ad to provide more information about how interest-based advertising works and tools to manage their advertising experience.

Yahoo! began our implementation of CLEAR Ad Notice in April 2010 with an early version of the advertising icon – the “Power-i”.  Since that time, we have served the CLEAR Ad Notice over 1.5 trillion times across Yahoo! properties in the US.  In an effort to significantly increase the level of consumer awareness and control with respect to interest-based advertising in other markets, Yahoo! launched CLEAR Ad Notice in January 2011 on the Yahoo! sign-in page across France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Today’s change in Yahoo!’s CLEAR Ad Notice implementation to the “Forward-i” continues to serve as a consistent reminder to consumers to learn more about and manage their interest-based advertising experience.  The roll-out of the new icon will take some time, but you will start noticing the Forward-i icon replace the current icon over the next few months on the ads you see across Yahoo! properties.

Vinay Goel
Sr. Manager, Advertising and Analytics Privacy

Do Not Track

Friday, March 11th, 2011

Yahoo! believes strongly in empowering users through providing transparency into our data collection and use practices and providing tools to exercise user choice in this regard.  This is evidenced through Yahoo’s leadership in partnering with the DAA and others in industry to develop ground breaking privacy enhancing tools for consumers, such as CLEAR Ad Notice,  Ad Interest Manager, and Persistent Opt-outs, not to mention footer links that help visitors learn more About our Ads and connect to our privacy center which carries a wealth of easily accessible information.

Recently each of the major web browser vendors have released features that place user choice tools within the web browser itself, responding to regulatory calls for “Do Not Track” capabilities.  Yahoo! is working with each of these vendors to better understand their solutions and how best to align our efforts.  In our recent response to the FTC request for comment, Yahoo! highlighted that some of these approaches would require websites to be reengineered to read new header signals broadcast to web publishers.  Further, Microsoft’s introduction of Traffic Protection Lists focuses on 3rd party data collection and could be very disruptive for users, even blocking the basic rendering of content.  This approach “breaks” many websites, including Yahoo!,  that aggregate or license content from third parties– or support and supply content for third party sites.

Yahoo! values the Federal Trade Commission’s statement with respect to DNT in their proposed privacy framework that “any such mechanism should not undermine the benefits that online behavioral advertising has to offer, by funding online content and services and providing personalized advertisements that many consumers value.”  Yahoo! believes approaches that allow users to consume content as expected and opt-out of Interest-based advertising and content data use – essentially preserving the customization our users have come to rely on with Yahoo! – are the preferred way to approach DNT.

Shane Wiley
Sr. Director – Privacy & Data Governance

Yahoo! International Data Privacy Day 2011

Friday, January 28th, 2011

Happy International Data Privacy Day! This year’s celebration comes at an interesting and critical juncture in the conversation about online privacy, with consumers, industry, and regulatory bodies around the globe all intently focused on implementing the best and most efficient ways to safeguard user information on the Internet. This conversation has moved beyond Capitol Hill and Brussels and into just about every online user’s home.

In an online environment that has become increasingly social, where personalization is expected, and sharing information is much more commonplace, privacy and user controls are vitally important to consumers.

Proudly, protecting user privacy has been a core part of Yahoo!’s business since it was founded in 1995. And for more than a decade, Yahoo! has been an industry leader in protecting users’ privacy while providing world class web services and tools that make their online experiences more meaningful and relevant. We are constantly developing new and innovative ways to meet consumer demands, as well as address policymaker expectations with respect to online privacy.

The way consumers use the web is vastly different than a decade ago. Today, users log on to the Internet to help manage almost every aspect of life. The Internet has become an interpersonal necessity that greatly helps people cut through the clutter to manage and simplify their lives. Given this reality, questions about online privacy have become front of mind for many.

The best way to allay concerns is to educate consumers on the many privacy controls that already exist, and the continuing innovation on this front. Here at Yahoo!, we are extremely proud of our ongoing efforts to create transparency and control for users.

Yahoo!’s Ad Interest Manager tool offers a comprehensive and consumer-friendly way for users to opt-out of interest-based  advertisements on a category-by-category basis. And as always, our one-click opt-out and privacy center are available from nearly every page across the network.

Additionally, Yahoo!’s CLEAR Ad Notice and our drive behind the industry “Ad Choices” icon effort which offers privacy notices and other information at the point of advertising, earned Yahoo!’s own Shane Wiley a Service Excellence Award from the Interactive Advertising Bureau. This massive effort is a commitment from more than 4,000 companies to increase transparency for users of online advertising and the ad choices icon is already becoming recognizable across the web.

Yahoo! is keenly aware that user trust is core to our business, so we are constantly innovating with privacy in mind. Everyday, products are created with privacy tools at the foundation to ensure we educate and protect our users, whether they log on from a computer, mobile or other device.

Here at Yahoo! we recognize that consumer trust plays a critical role in a vibrant, successful Internet economy and we will continue to develop products that provide users both peace of mind and that personally relevant experience they have come to expect.

Anne Toth
Chief Trust Officer