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Tuesday, December 11, 2007 Introduces AskEraser

Search engine now has a link labeled “AskEraser” at the top right of their US homepage. If you turn on this feature, according to Ask, “your search activity will be deleted from servers.” Ask defines your search history as “your IP address, User ID and Session ID cookies, as well as the complete text of your search query.” If AskEraser is disabled on the other hand, that search history will live on Ask’s servers for 18 months, somewhat similar to how Google say they treat it by default.

AskEraser doesn’t really work when accessed from Germany though. It’s a classic catch-22: I can only use AskEraser on the US homepage (or at least that’s the only place the AskEraser link shows). However, Ask always checks my IP to decide to push me onto the German homepage... and whenever I set my Ask preferences to make me stay on the US homepage, the AskEraser will delete that country preference cookie, meaning I’m back to Ask Germany next time! (This technical deficiency would have a simple fix, even if Ask decides to ignore when a user entered “” instead of say “”: respect the browser’s content negotiation preferences.)

There’s an interesting other caveat to AskEraser, as the FAQ on the subject disclaims: “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.”


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