Monday, 10th December 2007
Web Search Privacy: Ask.com Hands Control Over to End Users
Ask.com news follows. Click here to read the full text.
In July, Ask.com CEO, Jim Lanzone, announced that a new product dealing with online privacy, Ask Eraser, would be released by the end of 2007. Well, the deadline has been met and today AskEraser debuts. It's free to use. It's currently available on Ask.com and Ask UK. More Ask sites will begin offering the service in 2008.
Some AskEraser Fast Facts:
+ It's an opt-in service. The control about how Ask.com, handles user data (see below) is placed in the hands of the user. Data will be removed from both server logs and search logs (what people are searching). SEL has more in this post from July.
+ Look for an AskEraser link in the upper right corner of the Ask.com homepage and search results pages - clearly and constantly indicating to the user that their search activity will be 'erased' from Ask.com servers. AskEraser remains 'on' for searches conducted across Ask.com's major search verticals: Web, Images, AskCity, News, Blogs, Video, and Maps & Directions.
Perhaps the most important news in all of this is that it allows searchers to MAKE THEIR OWN DECISIONS on how to handle privacy issues and concerns. What's O.K. for person A might not work for person B and vice versa. Now, the decision is in the hands of each user. It's something people have been asking to have for some time and now it's available.
+ AskEraser can be turned 'on' or 'off' by the user at anytime. Check out these screen caps.
+ Data will be permanently removed from Ask databases within a short period of time (hours) once a search is complete.
Q. Specifically what data will be deleted.
A. IP address, User ID, Session ID, and the complete text of a users queries
+ Want more info? Visit the AskEraser FAQ to learn all of the details. It's worthy of your attention so you have a complete view on how all of this works.
Many others are writing in-depth reviews of the service. Here are a few links to more stories:
+ Ask Blog
+ Search Engine Land
+ NY Times
It's likely ResourceShelf friend, Genie Tyburski, will also have more on The Virtual Chase in coming days.
Note: Gary is Director of Online Resources at Ask.com.
Postscript: If you use MyStuff from Ask.com, a box will appear stating that:
The feature you are trying to use requires us to assign you a user ID or set other information. We cannot do this while AskEraser is on.
However, as described by Ask.com's Doug Leeds and Danny Sullivan in July, you can:
1) Toggle off the search query save portion of MyStuff
2) Toggle between MyStuff(Ask Eraser turned off) and AskEraser turned on.
Ask has a MyStuff service that allows those who opt-in to have their searches recorded in yet a third location separate from web logs and search logs. AskEraser and the new 18-month data retention policy is extremely unlikely to apply to MyStuff, Leeds said. That makes sense -- if you opt-in to have stuff saved, you probably don't want it automatically destroyed.
I think Danny's comments are straightforward and on the mark like AskEraser. If Eraser is on, it's on (material erased) and if it's off, it's off. Material and data saved to MyStuff will not be erased if/when Eraser is turned/toggled back on but as Sullivan says, if you wanted it erased/destroyed why were you saving it in the first place?
Postscript 2: You might have also noticed that the gray bar at the top of the results page is now gone. The box listed your search terms. Now, search terms are listed against the white background in red color.
Postscript 3: Want to save pages and still use Ask Eraser. We often save web pages and other files using eSnips. 5GB of storage, free.