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Search engine to offer more privacy

Posted by Michael Bloch in online world (Sunday July 22, 2007 )

Search engine company recently announced it will be implementing a new feature allowing searchers increased control over their privacy when running searches.

There’s been plenty of debate regarding the length of time that search engine companies hang on to a users search history. It’s not uncommon for the engines to retain log data for one to two years. This has raised the ire of privacy advocates as the data can be utilized to profile a person and perhaps be used against them in investigations.

There’s also the risk of the data winding up in the wrong hands. An example of this occurred around a year ago – the AOL search data faux pas. has stepped up to the plate in addressing privacy concerns with the announcement of AskEraser being implemented at the end of the year. AskEraser will be a configurable free opt-in service whereby people can ensure that their search history will not be retained by An indicator will appear on Ask search results pages so that users can determine at-a-glance the current status of their privacy settings.

The Ask press release states that records will be destroyed “at the time of the search”; but this may not turn out to be the case according to a discussion Search Engine Land had with Ask a few days ago. Given the complexities involved, the search log data may not be anonymized until up to a few weeks after the search has been performed.

Still, it gives a better layer of privacy for those concerned with such issues – bear in mind that the feature will not anonymize data already collected prior to its launch. AskEraser will certainly steal away a substantial number of privacy conscious users, so it makes me wonder if the other major search engine companies are now scrabbling behind the scenes to offer a competing feature.

I haven’t been out to for months and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of results the search engine is now returning. It’s still not quite up to Google’s standard and I think the interface still needs a little work, but Ask is a far better engine now than it was in the past in my opinion – worthwhile checking out.


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