July 20, 2007

Ask announces anonymous Web search tool

by Jan Harris

Computers & Internet

Search engine Ask has announced a new ‘AskEraser’ tool that will allow users to search the Web anonymously. Ask is the first major search engine to offer this option.

AskEraser will allow users to adjust their privacy preferences to stop their Web search history being stored by the search engine. A user’s privacy settings will be displayed on the search results page.

Ask will make the tool available on its site by the end of the year in the UK and US. It will be rolled-out globally early next year.

For people who choose not to search anonymously, Ask will keep user search data for 18 months and will then disassociate the search history from the IP address or cookie information.

Ask’s move is an improvement on recent steps taken by Google to address privacy concerns. Google recently announced its decision to set cookies on Web searches to expire after two years instead of in 2038.

Google has also decided to start anonymising the final eight bits of the IP address and the cookie data after 18 to 24 months, unless it is legally required to retain the data for longer.

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2 Responses to “Ask announces anonymous Web search tool”

  1. robert on July 23rd, 2007 7:14 pm

    Dear Jan,

    None of this is new to http://ixquick.com. Although a relatively small search engine we are considered the industry leader when it comes to search Privacy. As a rule, we delete our users’ IP addresses within 48 hrs and do NOT store any unique user ID cookies.
    This has been our practice since June 2006, when we became the world’s first search engine to take this pioneering step.

    You can find more information on Ixquick and our privacy policy at:
    http://us.ixquick.com/eng/protect_privacy.html
    http://us.ixquick.com/eng/privacy-policy.html

    Please feel free to contact us for additional information.

    Sincerely,

    Robert E.G. Beens
    CEO Ixquick.com

  2. Francois Bourdoncle, CEO, Exalead on July 26th, 2007 11:16 am

    The growing range of services offered by Google and other search portals poses an increasing threat to privacy. By offering a complete range of services ranging from email, search, calendar, to e-paiement, they can easily build a complete profile of your entire digital life. What is really worrisome is the level of detail of your profile that can be built by correlating the data gathered on an entire suite of services that uses a single user name and password. What is really new here is the simplicity of correlating data, rather than the mere fact that this data exists.

    I think it is fair for the EU to place boundaries around what a company may do with private data. In France for example, we follow the very strict privacy law that prevents us from storing any personal information that can be traced back to the individual.

    Francois Bourdoncle, CEO, Exalead

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