Yahoo plans to extend the amount of time it retains records on what its users search for online, just two years after breaking from the other big Internet search engines and promising to delete such data promptly.
The new policy brings the company in line with Google Inc., which dominates the industry, and Microsoft Corp., which powers Yahoo's search results under a partnership reached last year. Those companies failed to follow Yahoo Inc.'s lead when it pledged in late 2008 to shorten the amount of time that it keeps online search records to 90 days in most cases.
Beginning this summer, after notifying customers, Yahoo will join Google and Microsoft in keeping search logs for 18 months.
Yahoo said it will consider keeping other types of information about its users for longer durations, too.
The company's announcement comes amid mounting unease about the vast amounts of personal information that companies are scooping up online -- including Internet search records, Web surfing habits, pages views and ad clicks. That information is used to personalize Web content and target online advertising. But privacy watchdogs fear that as companies store this information, they are compiling vast databases that could become easy targets for government surveillance, identity theft and online scams -- as well as marketing.