Friday, August 08, 2008

Yahoo Behavioral Advertising Cookies Opt-out

Yahoo has joined Google one day later to announce privacy practices and provides an opt-out option (although buried 3000 words into a 4500 word page.)

The Yahoo press release headline reads:

Yahoo! Announces New Privacy Choice for Consumers Will Expand Its Opt-Out Policy to Customized Advertising on
However, the privacy option here is very much hidden as nobody but privacy advocates, and maybe bloggers or a rare journalist here and there, are willing to dig as deep as required to find this information.

As a service to those not willing to scour Yahoo's privacy policy and its massive response to the House Energy and Commerce Committee attached below their puff piece press release. Wow.

In addition to the Yahoo! opt-out, Blue Lithium and Right Media each also maintain their own opt-out mechanisms. The Blue Lithium opt-out is available here: and the Right Media opt-out is available here: As members of NAI, Yahoo! and Blue Lithium each have opt-out links available from the NAI opt-out page found here: which is linked to from over 20,000 publisher sites.

Additionally, users have direct control over their Internet experience through their web browser settings. Users can delete their cookies or adjust their privacy setting in their browser today. Yahoo! helps users understand this under the special category "cookies" in our privacy policy


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posted by RealitySEO at 1:44 PM 0 comments

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Yahoo Open Strategy (Y!OS) vs Privacy

I attended the O'Reilly Web 2.0 Expo Friday at Moscone West in San Francisco where I attended two sessions I'd like to address here. First was titled "Yahoo and Open Platforms - A Deeper Dive" by Yahoo Chief Architect of Platforms, Neal Sample. The second was a (Yahoo-owned) Flickr presentation on "Casual Privacy" by Kellan Elliot-McCrae. (This Flickr photo sharing tool is aptly titled and the technology consists only of a simplistic use of hard to guess complex URL's - once posted to a blog they become exposed to search engines and lose all privacy.)

I often come away from sessions like the first one mentioned above thinking "Wow! There are some scary smart people working on some really incredible things out there." But when looked at through the filter of personal privacy, the "Scary" part stands out for me.

Scary simply because the "Yahoo Open Strategy" takes personal data and distributes Yahoo user profiles across a multitude of Yahoo properties and makes it available to all Yahoo services once a user is logged in. Scary only because it means this database of personally identifiable information on anyone who opts-in becomes distributed widely across those Yahoo properties. I hope that user preferences for which services it is shared with come with their own privacy settings - necessarily complex settings to boot.

I had to miss two Web 2.0 sessions, one Wednesday and another on Thursday that I'd wanted to attend when a work project required immediate attention. Those included one with Joseph Smarr from Plaxo titled "Data Portability, Privacy and the Emergence of the Social Web" and I had heard Smarr speak at WebGuild event on OpenSocial launch in November, hosted on the Google campus.

The second session I had to miss was the Yahoo announcement of "Yahoo Open Strategy" by Ari Balogh, Chief Technology Officer at Yahoo! during his keynote on Thursday. This last announcement was major and has been characterized as a move against the Microsoft takeover bid. Personally, I think it's too big and sweeping to not have already been in progress before the bid became public. It involves reworking the entire system to incorporate the "Open Strategy" into most Yahoo properties, including Yahoo Mail, the home page, their Open Search platform, (announced at SMX West in Santa Clara in March). Bits a bytes of this have been leaking out here and there since then.

My reaction at the SMX show was "Wow, sounds cool!" and I'm still excited about how this might change the face of search and usability, and I'll address that elsewhere, but for now I'm pulling back a bit due to Privacy concerns related to this "Openness" because it makes me nervous that all of the aggregation of data (potentially in the hands of Microsoft) has me concerned about willingly providing all my data to one source.

I had my first privacy concerns when I noticed, on (Yahoo-owned) MyBlogLog, a request for extensive (and yes, publicly available) data from all my social sites. Having had a bit more time to digest this all - and now looking at it in the full light of the Yahoo Open Strategy announcement, It's losing its shininess due to privacy concerns.

The commenter on the previous post where I address this concern points to the MyBlogLog Blog discussing the new tools. But nothing is really addressed there except that this data will be offered to users from their own profile and made available to their own "Friends" if they opt-in. Swell, despite the fact that I want to define my "Friends" and what they see, differently based on they kind of friend they are, (marketing, business, true close friends, co-workers, management, family, etc.)

I'm going to leave that for now and look purely at this one fact: Despite the wonderfully friendly UI and utility of this "Openness" I'm not liking the need to gather all my own data and hand it to others to use as they see fit. In this case, Yahoo, in the future, Microhoo and who knows who else if they choose to "Share" it in aggregate or "Ooops" leak it out like AOL did in August of 2006.

New AOL Privacy Leak

I just don't know that I'll ever give Yahoo, or Microhoo - all of my public data to aggregate (and maybe leak) regardless of how convenient it is (and only on Yahoo-owned properties) or how easy it makes my online life. The aggregation and distribution of public social profiles is interesting, but once it starts getting distributed through API's to each social network or service - you've lost all control of who sees what and when.

This only truly matters if you DON'T want family seeing ALL of your Flickr photos or DON'T want your employer looking at resumes posted on job boards on social networks, or DON'T want your clients reviewing your connections with their competitors on business social networks - this list could go on endlessly and with thousands of DON'T wants - because we've already seen people fired from corporations due to private information or photos or personal associations being exposed on social networks.

Some people live their entire lives in full public view - others prefer a bit of control and security of that data. If everyone gave serious thought to how they want this information shared, it would surprise me. But for those who care, fine control of where the information flows should be an option. I doubt that level of control will ever be available, with the full ability to change or delete all data in all places it flows via API's and "Open Strategies."

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posted by RealitySEO at 12:11 PM 0 comments

Sunday, April 13, 2008

All Your Datas are Belong to Yahoo: Social=NO Privacy

I belong to and use about a dozen social networking sites, including LInkedIn, Facebook, Plaxo, a bunch of Google services and publicly link to profiles on several that I want to be public. But it wasn't until I visited my settings page on MyBlogLog (a Yahoo owned social network) that I realized how companies hope to "mine" that data and use it for their own purposes.

The first annoyance was when I jumped over to MyBlogLog and was asked for my Yahoo ID - which I begrudgingly provided and thought to myself, "Damn! I wish they didn't own so many things!" From there it took me to a screen with tabs across the top, one of which was labeled "Data Collection" - "Well," I thought, "at least they are being honest about that title - most times it is marked something tame like "Your info" or "Details" - but being charmed by their honesty didn't last long after visiting the page. (shown below)

Data Collection - MyBlogLog
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

I noted that I was "Opted-in" by default, realizing that being a part of this community meant sharing my photo or avatar and publicly agreeing to be tracked across the MyBlogLog member communities that I visited. I like this service and use it fairly often. One thing I like is how the service prompts you to "Join Community" after you've visited a blog a preset number of times *(mine is set to 10 visits - but you can choose 5). Alright, I realize they need to track me to make this feature work and I find it useful.

But then I got REALLY disturbed when I clicked on a tab that is benignly labeled "Services" to see a list of over 40 online social sites with those I had previously provided were pre-filled with each of my identities and/or URL's. But then I started to scroll the list to see over 40 other services listed, including OpenID, Plaxo and other aggregators. This is a bit much - what does this do to improve the MyBlogLog user experience? It seems to me that it only helps Yahoo track members of MyBlogLog - no?

Edit Services - MyBlogLog
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

These are hard to read at this size, but click the images to see larger versions. What do you think - is this useful for you as a member of MyBlogLog? How would listing your membership data for all of those services/sites improve your user experience? Am I missing something here? Why are they collecting that data? Why do people provide it willingly? Hmmm.

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posted by RealitySEO at 10:18 AM 1 comments