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Friday, December 19, 2008

Yahoo to Curb Data Retention

As posted by: Wall Street Journal

Yahoo Inc. said it will cut the time it stores personally identifying data about users' online searches to 90 days, amid pressure from privacy advocates and legislators.

The Internet portal, which had previously stored such data for 13 months, said it would make exceptions in cases of fraud or security concerns, in which case it may keep users' data for six months. The Sunnyvale, Calif., company said it will scrub user data not just on Internet searches but also on page views and ad clicks.

When Internet users look for information on the Web they leave an electronic trail, which all online companies keep for a certain amount of time.

Google Inc. took steps in the same direction in September, when it halved the time its stores users' personally identifiable search data to nine months.

Here's the story from yahoo.

SUNNYVALE, Calif. & London--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Today, Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO - News) announced a new global data retention policy that sets an industry-leading approach to user data privacy. This new policy strengthens Yahoo!’s relationship of trust with its 500 million users world-wide and enhances its longtime leadership on privacy.

Under the new policy, Yahoo! will anonymize user log data within 90 days with limited exceptions for fraud, security and legal obligations. Yahoo! will also expand the policy to apply not only to search log data but also page views, page clicks, ad views and ad clicks.

“In our world of customized online services, responsible use of data is critical to establishing and maintaining user trust,” said Anne Toth, Yahoo!’s Vice President of Policy and Head of Privacy. “We know that our users expect relevant and compelling content and advertising when they visit Yahoo!, but they also want assurances that we are focused on protecting their privacy.”

Fueled by a focus on consumer privacy, regulators, legislators and advocates from around the globe have asked the industry to examine data policies with a focus on retention periods.

Yahoo! conducted a comprehensive review of its data practices across the globe. The heads of business and engineering units worked with privacy and data governance teams to thoroughly review data needs for global products and services, striving to ensure that Yahoo! retains data only long enough to serve our business and create the highest quality user experiences while maintaining the ability to fight fraud, secure systems, and meet legal obligations.

Users won’t see a difference in their experience with Yahoo! products or services, and advertisers will continue to leverage our innovative interest-based advertising systems to deliver the most relevant ads to those users.

“This policy represents Yahoo!’s assessment of the minimum amount of time we need to retain data in order to respond to the needs of our business while deepening our trusted relationship with users,” continued Toth. “We’re proud this new policy sets a new benchmark for the industry.”

To protect users and our business partners, there will be some specific and limited exceptions to the anonymization policy. In order to fight fraud and preserve system security, Yahoo! will retain system specific data in identifiable form for no more than 6 months -- but only for this purpose. Yahoo! may have to retain data for longer periods to meet other legal obligations.

This week, the Ponemon Institute and TRUSTe released their Most Trusted Companies for Privacy survey with Yahoo! ranking as the 14th overall trusted company and the highest ranked search engine appearing on the list.