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Yahoo Promises To Anonymize and Limit User Data 76

quarterbuck writes "While Google is saying that personalization is the key to search, Yahoo is taking a different view of the topic. Yahoo announced plans to retain user data for no longer than 90 days and to anonymize data. Even if Yahoo is not your favorite search engine, it is a good move in the direction of online privacy if it will force others to follow suit." Reader Mike adds "Yahoo did say, however, that it will keep some data for up to six months for security and fraud reasons, as part of some 'specific and limited exceptions.'"
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Yahoo Promises To Anonymize and Limit User Data

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  • by alain94040 ( 785132 ) * on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @02:28PM (#26148687) Homepage

    The problem with personalization is that it's an extremely sensitive topic for 1% of the population (us, the geeks), but 99% of end-users couldn't care less.

    Google is in the very risky position where the wrong move could destroy the positive image they currently enjoy.

    Do the right thing: there needs to be legal means by which I can obtain, verify and erase all personal data associated with me. Voluntary programs from corporations are not good enough. Privacy policies can and do change, based on the corporations' financial interests. It doesn't mean the government needs to be involved, real contracts could do the trick: just get rid of the "we reserve the right to change those terms any time for any reason and steal your house as well."

    I'm no big fan of Microsoft, but at least they never owned any private data on me. Remember the outcry when it was discovered that Windows may sometimes phone home? With Google, it never phones home, you are using Google's phone to place your calls :-)

    iPhone Apps review site [] looking for bilingual testers

  • by Recovering Hater ( 833107 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @02:40PM (#26148853)
    Well. It seems like Yahoo is trying to actually not do evil and Google is trying to talk about not doing evil while making it palatable for the masses. Or something. (Insert witty statement illustrating contrasting styles of Google and Yahoo here)
  • Reverse contracts (Score:5, Interesting)

    by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @02:49PM (#26148971)

    The problem in IT today is that contracts give companies the power, not the end user. If you want to level the playing field, what we need is for the user to make contracts and exceptions about how their data is used, and then legally enforce it. In short, a user's union. We could design plugins to our browsers to eliminate companies from consideration that do not adhere to our privacy requests -- in effect, blackholing them. Since our private data is considered to have value, we want something back for it -- so we'd organize together to give that data out in exchange for monentary compensation.

    that said... It would never work. People don't care to organize to protect their rights. They're quite happy with the current state of affairs.

  • by Smidge207 ( 1278042 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @02:52PM (#26149023) Journal

    Look, perception is everything. Think about the Apple situation (an analogy, I know). Most people remember how Jobs came back and restored Apple to what they once were and how without him Apple seemed to fade a bit. So naturally, it *superficially* appears that Apple needs him more than he needs Apple and if he leaves, becomes terminally ill or dies so does the innovation at Apple.

    Now, that may or may not be the case w/ Yahoo... but it seems so on the surface.


  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @02:54PM (#26149061)

    Yahoo needs to improve the search results quality. Without competition, it doesn't matter much what anyone thinks about Google's plans. I can usually find what I'm looking for with Yahoo, but there are many more junk results and the interesting pages are rarely listed on the first page. So I keep returning to Google, even though I think that the agglomeration of search engine, ad broker, maps hoster, email provider and web statistics service is a major threat to the privacy of all users, even those who make an effort not to use any of these services directly.

    So yes, I hope it will be optional, so that I can put some distance between myself and the easier targets, but that's not really a solution. At least one of the other search engines needs to get its act together and provide a competitive product, or it will be Microsoft all over again.

  • by MikeDirnt69 ( 1105185 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @03:01PM (#26149183) Homepage
    I think it isn't about evilness, but money. Yahoo! is on a non comfortable situation, as investors are definitely not amused. In my view, they're simply trying to show they can do better where the biggest concurrent seems to be failing. But if it really is better or if it will help Yahoo! somehow, we don't know (yet).
  • by MikeURL ( 890801 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @03:38PM (#26149665) Journal
    Yup. It is a little bit unnerving when i get an email in my Google account and it automatically pops up a link on the right to track my UPS package. I mean, it isn't like they are hiding the fact that they are doing some pretty deep searching of my email. But like you is actually quite convenient.

    Like anything else the potential for abuse is there. What I'm most concerned about are the many overlapping Google privacy policies. If i turn off Web History does that mean they don't store the URLs I visit anywhere? Or do they just not make it available to me personally. And the list goes on and on because each web service has its own privacy policy.
  • by rs232 ( 849320 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @03:43PM (#26149751)
    How does this relate to such programs as NSAs Echelon [] and wholescale tapping of fiberlinks in major switching centers such as at AT&T []. Incidentally most of the current effort in surveillance goes on industrial espionage and the monitoring of 'activists', ie people who speak out against the government. [] []
  • by CannonballHead ( 842625 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @03:49PM (#26149841)

    Enforceable privacy. That would mean that a third-party (be it the government, another company, or a single alien individual from Uranus) would have to check 'private' data to make sure that the 'private' data is gone...

    This is getting rather complex now.

    IMO, the real question is - does Google claim it's NOT keeping private data? Privacy policies abound on all kinds of websites. Don't like it, don't use it. You can't enforce (unless it's illegal) ... or shouldn't ... a private enterprise to adhere to some sort of privacy standards if they clearly give you their privacy policy. Yes, that means unscrupulous companies can sell your information to marketers. Maybe there should be enforced laws about identity theft and credit cards and what not, but Google's not performing identity theft by giving you personalized search results, either, nor is it taking your credit card number, getting your credit report, and handing it to you, without you asking...

    (And if you e-mail your CC number in plain text, you've got issues anyways, and probably aren't reading slashdot.)

  • by $criptah ( 467422 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @06:28PM (#26151993) Homepage

    Google is not the only offender. In fact if you read TOS and privacy policies for many other companies, like AOL (owns ICQ), you will see that many popular products are quite dangerous to anybody who is concerned about privacy. For example, an ICQ account cannot be deleted. You can only remove information in the account and that is that. However, since Google is just a major player it simply shows on the tip of the iceberg.

    I bet most people who read /. know that there is no such thing as privacy on the Internet. Privacy is only limited by the amount of resources available to private companies or federal agencies and in fact most of the network traffic can be recorded if necessary. Of course whether such recordings will be useful is not clear, but it is still possible. If a DA has thousands of well paid investigators and a budget to enforce every single law, you bet your sweet ass many of us will be wiretapped and charged with stupid shit like violation of TOS (horray for Lori Drew's case, the PATRIOT act and other sweet by-products of 9/11.). The only question is what you, a private citizen, can do about this?

    Ideally, I would like every service provide to clearly state that personal data about me will be stored on their system and for how long. If anything, users should have an option to permanently delete their information without a trace. Also, inactive accounts should be automatically deleted. This already happens in real life where stores are required to shred credit cards lost on their premises if the owner of the card does not claim it within a reasonable amount of time. Unfortunately these policies will only add additional burden on companies and not being able to mine your private data is going to be a disaster for some.

"You must have an IQ of at least half a million." -- Popeye