Ask.com to offer private searches

Written by Phil Cogar

July 23, 2007 // 8:37 a.m.

Tags: #anonymity #anonymous #ask #askeraser #engine #eraser #google #internet #live #microsoft #privacy #search #yahoo

The privacy conscious will rejoice now that one of the major search engines has announced that it will give its users the ability to search in relative anonymity. Ask.com will release its AskEraser feature by the end of the year which will give users the ability to turn the retention of surfing data on and off.

AskEraser will stop Ask.com from retaining a user's search data while the feature is activated but it will not erase any other data that has been previously logged. Past data will only be retained for eighteen months keeping in line with the pledge that Google has made to its users.

Complete anonymity will not be obtainable through this feature as Ask's partner, Google, would receive and could still retain the search data in question. Internet service providers would also retain the ability to save search terms that appear in the Web address sent to Ask.

This move came as a growing concern about search privacy boomed when AOL released the search information of more than 650,000 users last summer and the increasing amount of leaks and subpoenas from the Justice Department. Even though users' IDs were substituted for unique IDs in AOL's released records, the search queries contained personally identifiable information themselves.

“The number of people this is important to is small, but to these people, it's very important,” said Doug Leeds, Ask's vice president of product management. Other company officials acknowledged that this decision would not raise Ask's ranking among search engines. Ask is a long way behind the market share of Google, Microsoft's MSN, Windows Live, and Yahoo in U.S. Search queries.

By not retaining the search data at all, Ask can assure its data won't get released even to authorities with subpoenas - will this change your searching habits? Share your thoughts in the forums.

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