Ask Allows Users to 'Erase' Searches

Ask.com will soon give its users the option to decide whether or not their search history is retained by the site.

Called AskEraser, the feature can be turned off and on, and its status is indicated on all search results pages. The move comes in response to increasing consumer concern over how search engines retain user data.

Google has most notably been targeted by critics for its practices, and is even being investigated by the EU for violations of its privacy rules. Such scrutiny even moved the search giant to change its data retention policies last month.

Likely aiming to avoid similar criticism, Ask.com teamed with the Center for Democracy & Technology to develop the process. "We're extremely pleased to see a new breed of innovative, competitive tools that allow users greater control over their personal information and online experiences," said CDT Deputy Director Ari Schwartz.

Ask.com claimed it will be the only search engine that gives users such control over their personal data. In addition, the site also anonymizes search history data after 18 months to come in line with a similar policy from Google.

"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," Ask.com CEO Jim Lanzone said.

"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."

AskEraser would be deployed in the US and UK markets by the end of the year, and worldwide by the beginning of 2008.

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