Yahoo debuts consumer privacy tool in beta

Yahoo launched a beta version of Ad Interest Manager, a tool that helps consumers control their online personal data, on December 7. The release follows last week’s launch of the Interactive Advertising Bureau‘s “Privacy Matters” campaign. Yahoo joins Google and AOL, which have their own online privacy tools, with the release.

By using the platform, Yahoo visitors can see a summary of their online activity and decide what data they’ll expose to interest-based advertising served from the Yahoo Ad Network. Before the launch, Yahoo used a binary opt-out format, which consumers could use to could turn off behavioral advertising. The platform gives consumers the option to personalize their online advertising experience.

“We were trying to give users more clarity and more information to act on so that we could get a sense of what the users were interested in with regards to online advertising,” said Anne Toth, VP of policy and head of privacy at Yahoo. “We wanted to give consumers control over their online advertising. We hope that consumers will use this tool to help us serve more relevant advertising.”

The platform will soon be available in Europe. Its US release coincides with a series of roundtables that the Federal Trade Commission is hosting on consumer privacy in online marketing.

The marketing industry is pushing for self-regulation, while consumer privacy groups, including the Center for Digital Democracy and the Consumer Federation of America, are pushing the FTC to go beyond self-regulation. The groups have also requested that the FTC establish a “Do-Not-Track registry.”

Since 2007, online marketing groups, such as the IAB and the Direct Marketing Association, have advocated self-regulation, and in July they released a set of self-regulation principles advocating transparency in online advertising.

“This is about the consumer. The consumer should be empowered with awareness and the tools to control privacy,” said David Doty, SVP of thought leadership and marketing at the IAB.

As a part of this effort, the IAB last week launched a consumer-focused campaign with members Google, Facebook and CBS Interactive. The campaign’s goal is to teach consumers about behavioral targeting and online privacy.

However, consumer interest and privacy groups, including the Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Federation of America and Electronic Privacy Information Center, contend that self-regulation is not in the best interests of consumers. They advocate that behavioral advertising is an invasion of privacy, that it takes advantage of vulnerable consumers and that data may be used beyond commercial uses.

The Center for Digital Democracy, for instance, wants the FTC to give citizens “the right to see, have a copy of and delete any information about them; ensuring that the use of consumer data for any credit, employment, insurance or governmental purpose or for redlining is prohibited; and ensuring that Web sites should only initially collect and use data from consumers for a 24-hour period, with the exception of information categorized as sensitive, which should not be collected at all,” according to a statement.

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