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Yahoo! Tracking Users Across Partner Sites
April 17, 2002 8:09 PM   Subscribe

Yahoo! Tracking Users Across Partner Sites By now, I think most people have probably heard about Yahoo!'s decision to opt everybody into their marketing options [relevant MeFi Thread], but this is the first I'd heard of Yahoo! using "web beacons" to aggregate user information across sites outside the Yahoo! network Doublclick style. [via: MacInTouch]
posted by willnot (11 comments total)

 
I don't entirely mind this kind of thing myself, but I know a lot of people find it pretty scummy, and I haven't seen it reported as aggressively as I would expect. How long do you suppose a company can last deliberately ignoring the major flashpoints of most internet users?

By the way, the main link to the Yahoo! privacy policy allows you to opt-out of the tracking.
posted by willnot at 8:11 PM on April 17, 2002


How long? Forever, as long as their sales figures increase. The main directory is practically a backwater for Yahoo at this point.
posted by aaron at 8:36 PM on April 17, 2002


To paraphrase Scott McNealy (Sun CEO): "You have no privacy - get over it."

That's pretty much true, I think. Not necessarily good, not necessarily bad -- simply a statement of reality.
posted by davidmsc at 9:02 PM on April 17, 2002


Warning: gratuitous, somewhat off-topic self-post ahead.

With regard to Yahoo's new-found predilection to privacy abuse, I've created an informational web site on the new Yahoo Spam Policy. Surely old news to everybody here, but feel free to pass the word to people that need to know what Yahoo is up to.
posted by chipr at 9:06 PM on April 17, 2002


chipr, in my opinion your informational web site is sensationalist bunk. On the Yahoo marketing prefs page it clearly states: "The newly created categories are for Yahoo! products and services only." How does this translate to Yahoo's violating your stated preference to not have your information shared with third parties?
posted by kfury at 10:12 PM on April 17, 2002


A lot of marketing companies have beacons on their clients' sites. The reason for this is usually because clients prefer to pay for advertising not per impression or per click, but as a percentage of generated revenue.

In order to track what revenue was generated through what ad placement, many advertising facilitators work with the advertisers to put in beacons. It's really not any worse than when such-and-such company cookies you themselves, and just simplifies an otherwise arduous and inaccurate process of consolidating server logs after the fact.

But privacy is this year's hot-button, and Yahoo the latest target, so go ahead and vent...
posted by kfury at 10:16 PM on April 17, 2002


I don't know kfury. I said above that I don't mind this stuff so much. I'm a marketing guy, and I would rather companies have more information about me as opposed to less - provided they are going to use that information to deliver more relevant, targeted offers for me.

Still, Yahoo! has a lot of information about me. They know or could determine (among other things): my name, the stocks I own, my employer/work address, my home address, my phone number, mail groups/newsletters I belong to, movies and TV shows that interest me, music that interests me, some of the e-mail I receive.

Over time, I have trusted them with this information in return for products or services that interested me. Their privacy statement says that they are tracking my movements on the web in the aggregate. They are not trying to associate my movements with any of the personal information they have about me, and they are (presumably) not trying to pool my information with other companies (like my credit card providers) in an attempt to build an even more detailed profile.

However, there is nothing that prevents them changing their privacy policies. In fact, they recently did and opted me in to a bunch of mail because that was the way to optimize revenue.

Data Mining if it could be done properly would provide them with significantly more potential for value, and the only thing preventing it are technical hurdles (which can be overcome) and consumer resistance. If we don't object to a minor invasion, then they will naturally keep pushing to see where the rejection threshold is.
posted by willnot at 11:15 PM on April 17, 2002


The page says this: "No personally identifiable information about you is shared with partners from this research...You may choose to opt-out of Yahoo! collecting and using this information for this research. Please click here to opt-out."

If it's just general demographic info, and not specific identifying info, what's the privacy problem?
posted by pardonyou? at 5:58 AM on April 18, 2002


I use Mozilla, which allows me to only load images from the same server as the rest of the page. I assume this stops web beacons dead in their tracks.
posted by salmacis at 7:54 AM on April 18, 2002


damidmsc, Of course, McNealy would like you to drop privacy concerns, it would only help to benefit his company if we stopped collectively bitching. I can see it now - lots of legalese that means when Java is fired up we're going to record some information on you, remember you have no privacy. -Scott. PGP, fale registration info, ad blocking, and spam catcher mailboxes go a long way.

What the hell is a web beacon? They're web bugs. I bet there was some meeting about terminology and how most people know about web bugs and how nice the word beacon sounds.

Regardless, the fact that Yahoo can change its privacy policy anytime it likes is incentive enough to feed them false information about yourself and opt out of their web bugs. Today you're just a unique idenifier in some database, but we have absolutely no protections that Yahoo will sooner or later pair up with some marketers and reveal that unique number to be you.
posted by skallas at 8:09 AM on April 18, 2002


willnot, Yahoo's use of web beacons in this way has been around since at least July of 2000 (since that's when I wrote about it).

(Of course, I think it's cool that looking that piece of info up on my site also helped me discover that, on the same page, I mentioned the study that showed that Cipro treats anthrax, having no clue how important that would turn out to be!)
posted by delfuego at 11:14 AM on April 18, 2002


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