Yahoo drops 'Do Not Track' policy in favor of 'personalized' experience

Yahoo says it'll be easier to give you what you want if they know what you want--by tracking you.

Yahoo is watching you, whether you like it or not.

Yahoo said this week that the company will stop honoring "Do Not Track" requests made by a user's browser. It will now actively attempt to track your interactions with its site and its content.

"Here at Yahoo, we work hard to provide our users with a highly personalized experience," the ironically named "Yahoo Privacy Team" wrote in a blog post. "We keep people connected to what matters most to them, across devices and around the world. We fundamentally believe the best web is a personalized one."

Yahoo's team claimed that Yahoo was originally the first major tech company to implement "Do Not Track," which, in reality, is more of a request from the browser to the Web site than an order. Yahoo said it had yet to see a single privacy standard that is "effective, easy to use and has been adopted by the broader tech industry." For that reason, as well as its desire for "personalized" experiences, Yahoo changed its policy.

"Personalized" ads, of course, are a mixed bag. On the one hand, if Yahoo knows you're a single man, you probably won't receive ads for maternity clothes. On the other, tailoring an ad to your gender, age, location, and even annual income means that Yahoo can charge far more per ad than it normally would.

Yahoo does allow you to manage certain elements of your privacy via its "Yahoo Privacy Center," where users can manually click a button and opt out of what Yahoo calls "interest-based advertising." Doing so, however, requires you not only to accept cookies into your browser, but also to be logged into Yahoo, across every PC you own, for those privacy settings to be passed along to your other devices.

"Do Not Track," of course, allows you to set a blanket statement against tracking across all Web sites, not just Yahoo. If more sites follow Yahoo's lead, imagine the time you'll spend simply ensuring that your privacy rights are configured the way you want them. What Yahoo hopes, of course, is that you simply won't bother.

Fortunately, there are some alternatives. Disconnect reroutes your browser through its own servers (which you may also find problematic). Ghostery, a plug-in for Chrome, also helps protect you from third party sites.

Yahoo's policy, however, hamstrings one of the better solutions out there. Microsoft's Internet Explorer, which has been one of the leaders in the fight for user privacy, uses a feature called Tracking Protection which "helps prevent the websites you go to from automatically sending details about your visit to other content providers whose content is hosted on the websites you visit," according to its privacy policy. But that of course does nothing to block content from Yahoo itself.

But the best solution? If you truly value your privacy, stop visiting Yahoo.

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