Yahoo to let visitors decline more targeted ads

12 Aug 2008

(Associated Press via NewsEdge) Yahoo will let its web visitors decline ads targeted to their browsing habits, becoming the latest internet company to break from a common industry practice as US Congress steps up scrutiny of customized advertising and consumer privacy.

Yahoo has been offering that opt-out choice only to ads the company runs on outside, partner sites. Yahoo said it now would extend that option to ads displayed on its own sites, to boost users' trust, and in doing so, perhaps draw visitors from its rivals.

The option will likely be available by the end of the month.

Yahoo spokeswoman Kelley Benander said the change has been in the works for some time, but the company decided to announce it early in response to an inquiry from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, whose subcommittee on the internet held a hearing last month questioning online advertising practices.

Visitors who decline would still see ads, but not ones delivered through 'behavioral targeting' _ in which a site displays ads for golf carts, for instance, to visitors who frequent golf sites, even when they are reading about Paris Hilton. Instead, they'd see a generic ad.

The policy change does not affect Yahoo's other targeted ads, such as those tied to search terms or location.

Nor does it stop the collection and retention of data that had been used to generate targeting profiles. Yahoo said it still needs the information for other reasons, including fraud detection and law-enforcement requests.

Yahoo said most consumers prefer targeted ads because they are most relevant to them. Furthermore, because people generally don't bother or know how to change web site settings, the choice should have little effect on the company's ability to sell targeted ads, for which Yahoo can charge more because they reach specific users most likely to buy something.

© 2008 The Associated Press

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