Privacy: Yahoo Changes Create Stir

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While DoubleClick recently moved to put its privacy troubles behind it, Yahoo has stirred up a few of its own.

DoubleClick agreed to implement a number of privacy provisions in exchange for the dismissal of lawsuits pending in New York, California and Texas.

Meanwhile, Yahoo is sending e-mail notices to its registered users informing them of a privacy policy change. The notices inform users that Yahoo has opted them into receiving information from Yahoo in 13 marketing categories and gives them 60 days to change their preferences before it sends any information in accordance with them.

Some users have voiced anger over the switch, though it includes only communication from Yahoo to users about its services. A 14th category under user preferences under which users consent to receive third-party ads was checked "no."

"Previously when you registered for Yahoo, we had a universal opt out for all marketing messages," a Yahoo spokeswoman said. "Since that time, services have changed so much and we offer so many additional services and so many different topic and content areas that we decided to offer users a greater level of choice with regard to how they're communicated with."

The notifications began going out March 28 and will be sent to an undisclosed number of users during the next several weeks.

Aside from the changes to marketing preferences, the new Yahoo privacy policy also streamlined three policies into one. Previously, Yahoo had a separate children's policy, which was added because of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, and a separate financial policy because of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Financial Modernization Act.

The policy changes were made in consultation with online privacy seal provider TRUSTe.

DoubleClick will revise its privacy policy to include more easy-to-read explanations of its business. The company also will merge personally identifiable information with clickstream data only if consumers opt-in; it will institute a policy to routinely purge data collected online; its cookies will expire within five years and it will pay $1.8 million in lawyers fees. DoubleClick also agreed to let an independent auditor review its compliance twice a year. The company also plans to serve 300 million banner ads that invite consumers to learn more about Internet privacy.

A hearing is set for May 21 to determine whether DoubleClick's settlement is agreeable to the court.

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