Sunday, May 08, 2005

Opt out of Yahoo's cookie info-collecting feature

I recently learned, from an article in the Daily Yomiuri, that Yahoo uses something called a "Web beacon" to log all my internet activity and that I had in fact given the company permission to do so.

When I created my account at Yahoo years ago, where I go by the screen name "JasonUCSD" in case you have Yahoo Messenger and you ever want to instant message me, I was asked to click a button that signified that I agreed to Yahoo's terms of service. Everyone clicks these all the time without reading the pages of legalese that follow.

Somwhere within their agreement it says that unless you specifically tell Yahoo not to, it'll track and record all your internet activity, not just that associated with their service. It does this by placing a small application on your hard drive that logs all the links you visit and then sends the data back to Yahoo.
What it does with this data is less clear, but I'm not to keen on the idea that a faceless company like Yahoo is collecting information about my private online activities. So I opted out of the internet browsing data-collection feature.

If you too would like to opt out of this intrusive feature, here's how you do it:

First, you'll need to log into your Yahoo account.
Next, put this URL into your browser's address window:

This will take you to a web page where Yahoo pretty much spells out its policies. Scroll down to the section about cookies, and you'll see a reference to something called "Web beacons." Click on that link, and it will take you to the page that explains how these things work. Scroll down a few paragraphs, and you'll see the words Opt Out highlighted as a link. Click that link and it'll take you off their data-collection list. Note that you have to set the opt-out function on every computer from which you access Yahoo.

Since the above link includes the suffix "us" this may only work for American Yahoo accounts, but I'm sure if you have an account from Canada or the UK, you too should be able to opt out.

Now, I realize that nothing I do online is truly "private," but I would have liked to have known more about "web beacons" when I signed up for Yahoo. I'm not closing my account or anything, but it may make me scrutinize more closely the terms of agreement before I hit the "accept" button in the future.


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