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Google, Yahoo allow users to opt out of targeted advertisements news
09 August 2008

The ongoing US Congress investigation into online advertising seems to be having an effect on some of the companies as Google and Yahoo announced plans to allow users to opt out of targeted promotions on the Internet. While Yahoo announced a new one-click opt-out policy yesterday, Google made it possible to opt out of both Google and Doubleclick ad targeting with one click the day before. (See: US Congress investigates Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, over internet data collection)

Yahoo was honest enough to come out and say that the new policy was a direct response to Congressional scrutiny over the intrusiveness of online advertising and behavioral targeting. However, Google opted to hide the reason in a blog post about Doubleclick cookies titled ''New enhancements on the Google content network''.

The targeted advertising under scrutiny by American lawmakers allows advertisement to be served based on a profile they have created of the user. It's a grey moral area considering it involves tracking the user over the internet, as well as tracking his purchase and/or behaviour as a potential or active consumer. The practice raises privacy concerns - how many users know that they are under such scrutiny and surveillance?
 
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.

Yahoo's opt-out option should be available at the end of August, through its privacy center, the company said. Yahoo already allows users to opt out of customized ads that it serves on other companies' pages. This tweak would stop the company from serving ads based on a user's behavior on Yahoo's own pages.

Anne Toth, Yahoo's head of privacy and vice president for policy, said, "Yahoo understands the trust of our users is our greatest asset, so we strive to create the most trusted, compelling online experience."

"Yahoo strongly believes that consumers want choice when customizing their online experience and they have also demonstrated a strong preference for advertising that is more personally relevant to them," continued Toth. "However, we understand that there are some users who prefer not to receive customized advertising and this opt-out will offer them even greater choice."

Google Inc.'s privacy policy offers opt out to third-party sites only, though the company says it conducts little, if any, behavioral targeting. Instead, Google has focused on contextual targeting, in which ads are influenced by one's search terms or the text of a Web article.


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Google, Yahoo allow users to opt out of targeted advertisements