There are probably a lot of internet users who have never
heard of Ask.com. The search engine site falls well behind other popular search
engines like Google and Yahoo. Ask.com announced this week that it will add an
additional privacy feature to its search engine called AskEraser.
Though search anonymity is not new, Google and Ask.com will both make search
logs anonymous after 18 months, Ask.com will be the first such site to
physically erase information about a user's searches from its servers. Data
that will be tied to the user-enabled switch includes IP addresses, user IDs,
session IDs and the text of their search queries.
Search engines and other websites typically use data gathered from searches and
browsing to create profiles to aid in targeting advertisements at users.
Without this data, ads delivered to the user may miss their mark, losing
revenue for the hosting site.
Privacy advocates don't really have an advertiser's best interests in mind;
however, arguing that information gathered by search sites could be used to
create personal profiles on users, reflecting everything from their
personalities to financial situations. How this information could be used is up
to whoever owns it, or possibly whoever steals it.
One caveat to AskEraser is that Ask.com has just signed a five-year agreement
with Google to deliver ads alongside Ask.com's search results. The search data
will be sent to Google in order to choose relevant ads, and Google is under no
obligation to erase the data sent to it, regardless of the user's AskEraser
Most users are not expected to enable the AskEraser feature constantly
according to Doug Leeds, senior vice president of Ask.com. Other features
offered by the website, such a saved search results, photo albums and blogs
will not work if the feature is enabled. In reality, it is likely that only a
small portion of Ask.com's users will even bother with the feature.
AskEraser is already available to Ask.com users in the United States and the
United Kingdom. The company plans to make the service globally available in