March 29, 2012, 4:35 PM

Yahoo will add a Do Not Track option to its sites globally

Consumers can decide to let their web behavior be seen by advertisers.

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Yahoo Inc. says it will add a “Do Not Track” option to the headers of its web properties around the world so consumers can decide how they want to be seen by Yahoo advertisers. The digital media company says the option will roll out this summer.

Do Not Track describes a proposed federal policy designed to protect the online privacy of consumers by allowing them to opt-out of data collection efforts by online marketers; those marketers often use web data to target advertisements at consumers based on their browsing histories. 

Yahoo’s move takes the implementation of Do Not Track a step deeper than other initiatives. Major web browsers, including Microsoft Corp.’s Internet Explorer and Apple Inc.’s Safari, already have privacy settings consumers can use to tell browsers not to track their online moves, but that doesn’t mean individual web sites accessed via the web browsers won’t track and share consumers’ behavior. By adding a Do Not Track option to its global sites, Yahoo is saying it won’t let advertisers track consumers’ moves on its sites if consumers tell it not to.

Yahoo says it began developing the do-not-track option last year and that it follows principles put forth by the Digital Advertising Alliance, an umbrella group of seven trade associations representing the online marketing industry. Yahoo did not say how consumers would activate this option, or whether if indicating a privacy preference on one Yahoo site would apply to all Yahoo sites.

The Federal Trade Commission this week released recommendations that endorse Do Not Track options for consumers, although there are no U.S. laws that currently force companies to comply with the recommendations. The report follows a so-called “bill of rights” released last month by the White House aimed at protecting consumers’ privacy and giving them more control over how their information is collected and used online. Both the FTC and the White House encourage self-regulatory efforts by the Internet industry. Meanwhile, the European Union will enact a law this spring that protects consumers from having their online behavior tracked without first gaining explicit permission.

Yahoo Inc. sites delivered nearly 529 billion ad impressions to U.S. consumers last year, making it the second-largest publisher of display ads to U.S. consumers, after Facebook, according to comScore Inc.

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