Sure We’ll Delete Your Data — Just as Soon as We Send It to Google
This morning Ask.com became the Internet’s least intrusive search engine. Too bad it’s also one of least used. Because with a 2.9% share of the search market, few are likely to pay much mind to the title.
That said, “AskEraser,” which allows users to delete their search queries and related data (IP address, user ID, session ID) from Ask’s servers, is a stride for consumer privacy on the Internet–especially in these days of Facebook Beacon and the AOL data Valdez. “Anywhere that you log into, anywhere where you put in personalized information, there should be a way–an easy way–to control how that information is used and retained,” Doug Leeds, Ask.com senior vice president, told The Wall Street Journal. “We are giving users the ability themselves to take control of their privacy.”
Well, some control, anyway. Ask.com recently signed a five-year sponsored search and advertising agreement with Google, so it sends user data to Google even in cases where it’s been deleted with the AskEraser function. So while Ask might not retain its users’ data, Google does. But then Google probably already had their data anyway, right?
So while AskEraser might be a nice gesture, it’s not really a grand victory for consumer anonymity on the Web. And because of that, critics say it’s not likely to be much of a selling point. “My gut tells me that basically it is not going to be a competitive advantage,” Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute, an independent research company, told the New York Times. “I think people will look at it and see it as a cool thing, and they may use it. But I don’t think it will be a market differentiator.”