Yahoo has announced the intention to change its log file data retention policy to offer "consumers a more robust individualized experience." The company has decided to expand the time it keeps users' search records: from three months to 18 months. It also says it will be closely examining what the right policy and time frame should be for other log file data.

Yahoo says its goals, to keep data as long as it needs to and meet its consumers' expectations on trust, have not changed. Apparently the Internet has changed, the company's business has changed, and the competitive landscape has changed. As a result, Yahoo has reevaluated its log file data retention policy and decided to match it to the competitive norm across the industry. Yahoo insists that privacy has always been a core value but this policy switch is making that hard to believe.

The only good part of this news is that Yahoo is telling its users before the change goes into effect. In the next four to six weeks, Yahoo will begin rolling out notifications across its Web properties to give a clear and understandable notice to its consumers of the policy change. 30 days after all the notifications have gone out, the new policy will come into effect, which should be sometime in mid-to-late July.

In December 2008, Yahoo announced it wanted to bolster trust among its users by anonymizing the data it collects about their web searches after just three months. It was still collecting 13 months of data, but only the first three months were tied to IP addresses. That will soon all go out the window as the number is increased to 18 months.

"No policy exists in a vacuum and every company has to continually reevaluate what serves its consumers best over time," a Yahoo spokesperson said in a statement. "Changes like these are never undertaken lightly. We at Yahoo! are incredibly proud of the innovative new products we have launched and have lined up in the coming months for our users around the globe. We have a world-class research team using data to improve consumer experiences. We have a product team dedicated to innovative new products and features like Search Direct and Livestand. And we remain one of the most visited and trusted sites in the world. We want to stay that way by putting our users' data to work for them to make every visit to Yahoo! better than the last."