Yahoo to launch controversial behaviour-based advertising tools

Online search engine Yahoo is today expected to launch tools to make it easier for advertisers to target consumers based on their online behaviour.

Online search engine Yahoo is today expected to launch tools to make it easier for advertisers to target consumers based on their online behaviour.

Reports in the Washington Post quoted senior Yahoo officials as saying the new services include serving graphical adverts to users who have searched for particular terms in Yahoo's search engine. They could then customise the offers in adverts based on what websites a consumer has visited and what they have done on those sites.

From next month, marketers will be able to buy text advertisements that appear next to search results. The ads served will be based on users' activities at the time of day, or other factors such as age and gender, the paper said.

The behaviour profiling technology has been highly controversial in the UK. BT was strongly criticised when it conducted secret trials of similar technology from Phorm, an AIM-listed software house.

Eventually the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform issued guidelines for using the technology. One was that users had to give their informed consent to receiving such targeted advertisments.

BT's decision to go ahead with a commercial launch of the technology, known as Webwise, is still pending.

Behaviour profiling has also been criticised in the US as a potential invasion of privacy. The Federal Trade Commission was subsequently forced into producing guidelines for marketers who want to use it.

Yahoo, the leading provider of online display advertising, has been talking to Microsoft, Google and AOL about mergers or partnership deals for more than a year, without result.

Yahoo executives are expected to reveal the details of the tools at a conference in Orlando, Florida later today, the paper said.

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