Yahoo allows users to decline more targeted ads

Yahoo will let its web visitors decline ads targeted to their browsing habits, becoming the latest internet company to break from a common industry practice as US Congress steps up scrutiny of customized advertising and consumer privacy.

An Associated Press report also said Yahoo has been offering that opt-out choice only to ads the company runs on outside, partner sites. Yahoo said it now would extend that option to ads displayed on its own sites, to boost users' trust, and in doing so, perhaps draw visitors from its rivals.

The option will likely be available by the end of the month, the report said.

Yahoo spokeswoman Kelley Benander, was also quoted by the Associated Press report saying the change has been in the works for some time, but the company decided to announce it early in response to an inquiry from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, whose subcommittee on the internet held a hearing last month questioning online advertising practices.

Visitors who decline would still see ads, but not ones delivered through 'behavioral targeting' _ in which a site displays ads for golf carts, for instance, to visitors who frequent golf sites, even when they are reading about Paris Hilton. Instead, they'd see a generic ad.

The policy change does not affect Yahoo's other targeted ads, such as those tied to search terms or location.

Nor does it stop the collection and retention of data that had been used to generate targeting profiles. Yahoo said it still needs the information for other reasons, including fraud detection and law-enforcement requests.