Ask.com feature aims to ease privacy concerns


12 Dec 2007

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Search engine Ask.com has enabled users to delete search queries and associated cookie information.

A new feature on the Ask.com search site called AskEraser will, when activated, delete all future search queries and associated cookie information from Ask.com servers, including IP address, user ID, session ID and the complete text of their queries.

It is the first product to give net users privacy control over their online searches, something privacy advocates have long called for. Leading search engine Google comes into regular criticism for using tracking cookies to log users’ search queries along with their IP addresses and other information that could identify them for up to two years.

The AskEraser link is located in the top right hand corner of the Ask.com homepage and search results pages. AskEraser remains on for searches conducted across Ask.com’s major search verticals: Web, Images, AskCity, News, Blogs, Video, and Maps & Directions. It can be turned on or off by the user at any time.

“For people who worry about their online privacy, AskEraser now gives them control of their search information,” said Jim Lanzone, CEO, Ask.com. “AskEraser is simple, straightforward and easy to use. It is an idea whose time has come.”

Earlier this year, Ask.com announced that it was implementing a new data retention policy to disassociate search history from IP address and user ID after 18 months. In July, Ask.com and Microsoft came together to urge the online industry to develop global privacy principles for data collection, use and protection related to searching and online advertising.

“Anonymised search data provides online companies with important information to optimise the overall search experience,” said Doug Leeds, senior vice-president, Ask.com. “At Ask.com, that aggregate information is already guided by strong privacy standards and policies, but for those who place greater importance on protecting their search data and their online privacy, AskEraser takes care of their concerns by putting consumers in charge.”

By Niall Byrne