In a move that is sure to be welcomed by privacy advocates everywhere, Ask.com announced yesterday that it would be launching a new privacy tool, called AskEraser, which would allow users to use its search engine anonymously.
As it is now, Ask.com stores users’ search query, IP address and incoming URL, as well as cookie-based information. By enabling the new tool’s privacy controls, users' search records will not be stored on Ask.com's servers in any form for any period of time. In addition, search results pages will include a privacy indicator so that users will always be aware of the privacy status of their Ask.com searches.
"AskEraser is a great solution for those looking for an additional level of privacy when they search online," said Jim Lanzone, CEO of Ask.com. "Anonymous user data can be very useful to enhance search products for all users, and we're committed to being open and transparent about how such information is used. But we also understand that there are some who are interested in new tools that will help protect their privacy further, and we will give them that control on Ask.com."
The move comes shortly after Google – under a lot of pressure from privacy watchdogs – decided to ‘shorten’ the lifespan of its search preference cookie and limit the amount of time it keeps users' personal search data to 18 months. Ask also said that it planned to adopt a new data retention policy to disassociate all user searches histories with IP address and cookies information after 18 months.
With the announcement of AskEraser, Ask.com becomes the only major search engine to offer such a tool. The company said AskEraser will be available on the Ask.com and Ask.co.uk Web sites by the end of 2007.