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Yahoo sends reminder on marketing changes

The company gives some members one last chance to opt out of an internal marketing program that's set to launch in January, following controversial changes to its privacy policy last year.

Yahoo is giving some members one last chance to opt out of an internal marketing program that's set to launch in January, following controversial changes to its privacy policy last year.

The notification, sent by e-mail, stems from changes in Yahoo's marketing policies that date back to March 2002. At that time, Yahoo switched users' preferences to accept e-mails, phone calls and postal mailings about the company's new products and services, even if they previously declined to receive these offers. The policy also required people to manually opt out of receiving these pitches.

The new marketing preferences outraged some Yahoo users and sparked an investigation by New York state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. Dissenting users labeled the change as a veiled attempt to send them unwanted bulk e-mail. Yahoo said it had given users enough time to review and change the new preferences.

Yahoo settled with the attorney general in October for $75,000 in investigation fees and was never sued. As part of the settlement, Yahoo agreed not to call people if they had opted out before the March 2002 changes. However, they reserved the right to contact them by e-mail or postal mail.

These new policies are scheduled to go into effect in January 2004. Yahoo also said it would notify people 30 days before any future marketing changes.

Yahoo is now giving users a head's up that the policies introduced last year will finally go into effect.

"As part of the settlement, we agreed to renotify that subset of users (who opted out before March 2002)," Yahoo spokeswoman Nissa Anklesaria said. "They're not being told anything new."

The changes only affect Yahoo-specific products. Yahoo has not changed its default settings for third-party marketers. People have to select "Yes" to receive these pitches.