announced that it will allow its customers to opt out of customized advertising on Yahoo.com. Yahoo made this announcement in a response to the an inquiry by U.S. Congressman John Dingell (D- Mich.). Just yesterday, Google had announced a similar opt-out program for its DoubleClick advertising network. Yahoo's opt-out program won't take effect until the end of this month and will be an enhancement of Yahoo's current privacy policies with regard to customized advertising.Yahoo today
There have always been privacy concerns around personalized advertising, though the topic only recently became more of a mainstream issue when the U.S. Congress started an inquiry into the implications of this. As part of this inquiry, Congress asked 33 online advertisers if they offered the option to opt out of these customized ads.
Yahoo goes to great length in its letter to defend customized advertising and explains why advertising on the net is so important, not just as a way for Yahoo to make money, but also because it allows Yahoo to offer free tools to consumers and small businesses.
In the letter, Yahoo also stresses that it does not customize advertising based on potentially "sensitive interest categories" and specifically mentions searches for adult sites and sexual health information.
Will Users Care?
For advertisers, customized ads are obviously a far more effective way of reaching potential customers than regular ads. However, the real question will be if users will indeed chose to opt out of customized advertising. Yahoo's letter mentions that only 75,000 people visited its current opt-out site in July, which is a very small number when compared to Yahoo's overall reach.
Most mainstream users probably don't worry about the privacy implications of these customized ads too much. And those who do worry about it probably already run some form of ad-blocking software and have opted out of online advertising altogether.
Overall, this seems like a great publicity move by Yahoo, even if most users won't make use of the opt-out feature.