In a bold, unilateral move, the web search engine Ask.com has announced it will soon be implementing a new product called AskEraser which promises to allow users to erase their search history:
With AskEraser, people can ensure that their search history will not be retained by Ask.com. Searchers will have easy access to AskEraser and can change their privacy preference at any time. Once selected, searchers’ privacy settings will be clearly indicated on search results pages so they always know the privacy status of their searches.
“AskEraser is a great solution for those looking for an additional level of privacy when they search online,” said Jim Lanzone, CEO of Ask.com. “Anonymous user data can be very useful to enhance search products for all users, and we’re committed to being open and transparent about how such information is used. But we also understand that there are some who are interested in new tools that will help protect their privacy further, and we will give them that control on Ask.com.”
Ask also said it will be implementing a new 18 month data retention policy that will “completely disassociate search history from a user’s IP address or cookie information after 18 months”. (This puts them in line with Google’s new 18-month retention period)
I’m very pleased with Ask’s decision to be a market-leader here, and while we don’t have the details yet (Ask, like Google, is still figuring them out), it appears to be much more meaningful than Google’s recent non-announcement that its cookies will expire after 2 years (as long as a user never returns to Google).
(It is worth nothing that the meta-search engine, Ixquick, has had a non-retention policy in place for quite a some time now).