Ask.Com Launches User Query Eraser Function
The search engine Ask.com fulfilled a promise it made some time ago: it released the "AskEraser" feature, which enables users to delete all the data on their queries from the site's servers.
December 12, 2007
Also, the tool will delete all future search queries and associated cookie information from Ask.com servers, including IP address, User ID, Session ID, and the complete text of their queries.
"For people who worry about their online privacy, AskEraser now gives them control of their search information," said Jim Lanzone, CEO of Ask.com. "AskEraser is simple, straightforward, and easy-to-use. It is an idea whose time has come."
While the addition seems like a good step in the right direction, there are a couple of things bearing a huge question mark right above them. First of all, Ask.com relies on Google for text-based Adwords links, so some of the user data still is shared with the search giant, regardless of whether the "AskEraser" tool is turned on or off.
The AskEraser FAQ reads the following:
"We cannot delete your search activity from the servers of third-party companies that receive your search queries to provide you with certain aspects of our search results (for example, current weather conditions, stock market summaries, etc.), sponsored search results and other product features."
Further on, it also states that:
"Ask.com must abide by the laws and regulations of local, state and federal authorities. Even when Ask Eraser is enabled, we may store your search activity data if so requested by law enforcement or legal authority pursuant to due process. In such case, we will retain your search data even if AskEraser appears to be turned on."
In addition, the search engine doesn't actually provide a specific time frame for data deletion. The user data will be erased after "a number of hours," and that's as far as the company will go in revealing the secrets behind its tool.
Ironic posts have already emerged on the web, with users wondering if the cryptic "number of hours" will be equal to 18 months, the amount of time after which both Google and MSN have agreed to clean up their servers.