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.
December 7, 2009; 11:36 AM ET
Categories: Privacy , The Web
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