In the interest of trust
With aspirations to set a new industry standard, Yahoo has executed a global 90-day data retention policy.
According to the company, this stance "strengthens Yahoo!'s relationship of trust with its 500 million users world-wide and enhances its longtime leadership on privacy."
Search engines like Yahoo and Google typically store user log data for 18 months — a sticking point for institutions that worry about how search firms could manipulate that data, or give it to governments that could may use it to prosecute innocent queriers.
Earlier this year, Google surrendered personal information about an Orkut user to Indian authorities. The user, accused of posting vulgar comments about a politician online, was imprisoned.
But Yahoo's hardly leading the race in privacy's arena. In September, Google honored privacy advocate concerns by reducing its data retention time to nine months. Bowing ever lower, Ask.com launched Ask Eraser in December 2007. The feature lets searchers anonymize their data in real-time.
Yahoo's new policy will anonymize user log data in three months, "with limited exceptions for fraud, security and legal obligations." The policy will apply to pageviews, clicks ad views and ad clicks, in addition to search.
"In our world of customized online services, responsible use of data is critical to establishing and maintaining user trust," VP-Policy/Head of Privacy Anne Toth pontificated.
But trust is tough to earn once lost. Earlier this year, former CEO Jerry Yang of Yahoo was suspected of squashing a potential Microsoft takeover on account of his personal feelings, all the while asserting the liaison was outside the best interests of shareholders.
Many shareholders expressed contempt about the deal's failure, and a number of key executives left voluntarily at that time. Yang himself vacated his CEO position at Yahoo last month.