Yahoo Ad Interest Manager More Confusing Than Helpful

Yahoo's new Ad Interest Manager, now available in beta, may in its present form create more questions than it answers.

From the information it offers, users may have a hard time figuring out what information Yahoo has, what it does with it, and how that impacts the ads that a user sees. It also may or may not work with their browser.

The Ad Interest Manager page also admits that it isn't the sole control for what Yahoo presents its users, sometimes relying on "other inputs" such as "publicly available information or information provided by partners to help customize some of the ads we show."

In short: Yahoo may collect and use targeting information about its users regardless of their wishes, as expressed on this new Ad Interest Manager page.

This makes me wonder what the value of this new page is really supposed to be, besides placating government regulators who are expressing concerns about online privacy issues.

This page either does or does not control what users see, and Yahoo admits it does not. Or maybe it does mostly, or perhaps just a little. Yahoo doesn't say.

Yahoo's Ad Interest Manager is confusing. Adding to the confusion is "help" text like the following:

"Activity-based ad customization includes programs like Yahoo! Search retargeting and site usage targeting. Search retargeting helps us show ads more specific to searches unlike Interest Categories above which incorporate page views, page clicks, ad views and ad clicks in addition to searches. Just as search retargeting considers only search activity, site usage targeting considers only site activity. While the summary activity categories here are not editable, opting out turns off these forms of targeting and ensures that you won't see interest-based ads from Yahoo!."

I think I know what that means--I grabbed it off the Ad Interest Manager page--but have read it twice and still don't fully understand how it changes what I see.

And then there is the kicker, the spot on the page that says:

"This browser currently does not qualify for interest based ads. Ensure you are opted in to see categories that this browser may qualify for."

I am opted in and am running mainstream browsers--Firefox and IE8, though on 64-bit Windows 7. I think what I am being told is I don't use Yahoo enough for targeting, though I suppose it could mean precisely what it says. Which is that the two industry-leading browsers don't work with the Ad Interest Manager.

Guess I'll try Chrome next and see how it works (or doesn't).

If you are a frequent Yahoo user, the page might be helpful, at least to a degree. But, since it does not appear to control all of Yahoo's network there are significant limitations.

For example, most of the advertising Yahoo delivers to me is attached to Yahoo Groups messages sent via e-mail or appear as part of Yahoo Instant Messenger. These ads don't appear to be controlled by Yahoo Ad Interest Manager.

If you use Yahoo for searches or often visit pages on the site, the Ad Interest Manager would seem to have a much larger impact on what you see on Yahoo's pages than it does on what I see, presuming it works with your browser.

It appears that Yahoo offers a fair amount of granularity in the options it presents frequent users, about whom it has gathered a great deal of information. In this way, Ad Interest Manager gives users more control than Google offers via its recently introduced privacy Dashboard.

On the other hand, I went to Google's Dashboard and immediately understood what it was telling me and the options in makes available. It also includes a list of services that Dashboard does not yet control, something Yahoo would be wise to add to its Ad Interest Manager.

If you are a frequent Yahoo user--meaning searches and the site itself--Ad Interest Manager may be useful. For those who interact with Yahoo in other ways, it appears to have little to offer.

David Coursey has been writing about technology products and companies for more than 25 years. He tweets as @techinciter and may be contacted via his Web site.

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