Ask.com starts AskEraser for users seeking privacy

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Ask.com yesterday launched AskEraser, a new product that aims to give Internet users more control over their privacy when they search online.

 

“Consumers are spending more of their lives online and that trend will only increase,” said Nicholas J. Graham, a spokesman for Ask.com, which is based in Oakland, CA. A subset of online search users feel very strongly about privacy and Ask.com is responding directly to those users, he added, pointing out that more than 600,000 AOL users had their search queries made public in August 2006.

 

When users enable AskEraser, their future search activity will be deleted from Ask.com servers within hours. This activity includes all search queries and associated cookie information, as well as the user's IP address, User ID, Session ID, and the text of his or her queries.

 

The link for AskEraser is on the upper right-hand corner of the Ask.com homepage. When users click on the link they are asked, “Do you want to turn on AskEraser?” When users enable this product, they will see an indicator that the feature is turned on at the top of the site. AskEraser will remain on for 24 hours. It can be turned off at any time.

 

When asked how AskEraser might interfere with behavioral targeting or other tracking efforts done by marketers, Graham responded that Ask.com anticipates that the new feature only will be used by a small, but important, subset of its users.

 

Ask.com will still be able to analyze a sampling of search data from users who choose not to enable this feature, he said. “We've only ever use a sampling of search data in the aggregate to help optimize and improve our search products as well as the overall search and advertising experience.”

 

The use of AskEraser will only enhance Ask.com's reputation and makes the search engine a destination of choice for a certain group of online users, Graham continued. “This will reinstate a feeling of integrity and trust,” he said, adding, “That can only be good for the third parties we work with to make Ask.com what it is.”

 

Ask.com also announced earlier this year that it would be implementing a new data-retention standard that will disassociate search history from IP addresses and User ID after a period of 18 months.

 

AskEraser is currently available on Ask.com's US and UK sites. The company plans to globally launch the feature in 2008.

 

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