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Yahoo adds ad-preferences manager

This morning, Yahoo launched a new page on its site that tells visitors just what it thinks of them.


This "Ad Interest Manager" lists the data that the Sunnyvale, Calif., company has gathered about you for advertising purposes -- your perceived interests, your usage habits at Yahoo's own sites and some technical data about your computer -- and lets you correct some of that information or opt out of its tracking altogether.

As the company explains in a blog post, the idea is to dispel some of the mystery of online advertising:

The new tool Yahoo! is launching today will show users what interests we think they have, and also let them edit and change those interests to reflect the most up-to-date information. Importantly, users who don't want interest-based ads can turn them off completely. With the introduction of Ad Interest Manager, users can not only get a better understanding of how interest-based advertising works, but they can also communicate better with Yahoo! and our advertisers about what most interests them.

In this move, Yahoo is following the example of Google, which launched a similar "interest-based advertising" ad-preferences page in March. Back then, I'd hoped to see other companies offer even more transparency about their online ad systems -- not least because I prefer specific, relevant ads over the annoying, irrelevant kind.

It's interesting to compare Google's and Yahoo's efforts, both in terms of what they tell me about each site's perception of my interests and how much control each company gives me over that.

Google's Ads Preferences page correctly describes many of the things I like to read about online, such as travel, urban development and politics. But it doesn't provide a link to the Dashboard page Google launched last month, at which you can get a far more detailed report on your use of Google's sites and services.

Yahoo's Ad Interest Manager, by contrast, briefly summarizes your involvement at its various sites -- it correctly notes that my main interaction with Yahoo happens through its Flickr photo-sharing site -- and breaks down details about my computer it's been able to glean, such as browser version and screen resolution. But its list of my perceived interests shows a much fuzzier grasp on reality; contrary to what this page reports, I have near-zero interest in skin care (maybe my wife's been using my account?) and am blessed not to need any debt-consolidation services.

How well do these sites seem to know you? Take a look at what each page says about your interests, then grade its accuracy in the comments. Then, for extra credit, tell when you last checked out Google's ad-preferences page; the idea behind these efforts is that users will want to correct mistakes about them, but I'm not sure how many people will remember to do so in practice.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  December 7, 2009; 11:36 AM ET
Categories:  Privacy , The Web  
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Google's dashboard indicates I'm a heavy user of Google products. However, the ad interest page shows me as a zero, says I don't have cookies turned on. I suspect that's due to Adblock-Plus. Of which I am a heavy user.

Likewise, Yahoo as zippo on me. I suspect for the same reason; however, I've had a Yahoo account for more than 10 years, but still never use them to search. It's always been low use for me.

I have to say, I was relatively please with the outcomes. I prefer fewer footprints, in general.

Posted by: JkR- | December 7, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

I too get the "you're cookies are not turned on". (so, thank you Opera)

I use My.Yahoo, so Yahoo has a few items correct, but not the intersts. (don't use Yahoo-Search)

Posted by: Max231 | December 7, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of ads, I would like to know why, when I click on an article on the Post site, or sites of others, I am accessing about ten other sites. I assume they are for advertising, but why so many? The ones I can see long enough to read are:

Facebook? Yeah, it's there. Why?

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | December 8, 2009 6:55 AM | Report abuse

On the Google ad-preferences page, no preferences are listed (like JkR above, I use Adblock Plus), on the dashboard, an extensive - and from what I could see, accurate - list of the Google services I use. When I access the Yahoo Ad Interest Manager from my Minefield (Firefox) 3.7a1pre browser, however, I am informed that «this browser currently does not qualify for interest based ads», which is fine with me. Both pages get my gender and age right ; interestingly enough, Yahoo's Ad Interest Manager provides details concerning my IP address, OS, browser (web engine), and, to my surprise, my computer's screen resolution and colour depth....


Posted by: mhenriday | December 8, 2009 8:58 AM | Report abuse

I've noticed the same as Henri above. Sometimes it seems the page has to load two or three times as I see all those sites listed. I also see "about blank" when pages load. Most annoying

Posted by: tbva | December 8, 2009 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Bitter_Bill offered the following WaPost url's scripts:

I use Firefox with NoScript add-on, which show WaPost's url to include:


Some sites have no extra scripts running in the background, other sites have so many that 'tis difficult to direct NoScript to allow the one or several actually related to content. Often, I use google (so ironic) to decide what background-script to allow.

Are we headed for an era wherein, for instance, not clicking on Sarah Palin articles sufficiently will e-brand a person?

Perhaps we're already living in that scenario.

Posted by: TeresaBinstock | December 8, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Yahoo's identification of my interests couldn't be more vague. The interests themselves are listed alphabetically so I have no idea if it thinks I value rap music more highly than college football. Google was no closer. It just listed fewer things.

We might be approaching "1984", but we're not there yet.

Posted by: slar | December 10, 2009 5:32 PM | Report abuse

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