Yahoo! says it no longer will collect personal data for third-party users from consumers who choose a “no tracking” option on the latest Internet browsers.
Yahoo! announced March 29 that it would implement the policy this summer. Although it means that the Internet search-engine company no longer will target advertising to consumers who request that Web browsers don’t collect their online data, experts whom we interviewed say the decision by Yahoo! hardly leaves consumers in the clear.
For instance, the company says it will continue to gather personal data for fraud protection purposes, for improvements to Yahoo!’s current services and for research that’s related to future Yahoo! products.
“That is a potentially huge loophole where lots of other data can continue to be gathered and used for purposes that consumers don’t really understand,” says John Simpson of Consumer Watchdog, which is a consumer advocacy group.
Although Simpson believes that Yahoo! can collect information to prevent fraud, he says the company should be more transparent about the information that it collects as a third-party advertiser. Yahoo! wouldn’t answer Consumers Digest’s questions about how personal data is collected, and instead pointed us to the company’s general guidelines that pertain to data collection.
Simpson also says the no-tracking options don’t extend to information that Yahoo! can collect when an individual uses Yahoo!’s specific services, such as its search engine or email. He believes that Yahoo! and other companies shouldn’t collect or store customer information that isn’t involved directly with the customer’s requested action. For example, search-engine companies shouldn’t keep prolonged logs of customers’ search queries.
Yahoo!’s decision seems to be in line with the call by the Obama administration and Federal Trade Commission for Internet companies to provide consumers with a Do Not Track option. But Simpson believes that companies’ actions still must be augmented by legislation that FTC enforces. The advertising industry “only does self-regulation in a meaningful way when they perceive the threat of regulation by law,” Simpson says.
– K. Fanuko