Ask.com is the fourth most popular search engine in the United States, accounting for 4.7 percent of all web searches. They've decided to differentiate themselves from the rest of their competitiors by offering AskEraser -- a widget on their service you can use to direct the search engine to discard information like search term, user's Internet address, and other identifying features immediately after your search. If you're worried about what search engines do with the archived information they glean from your searches, this is the service for you. Maybe.
“It works like a light switch,” said Doug Leeds, senior vice president for product management at Ask.com. Mr. Leeds said the service would be a selling point with consumers who were particularly alert about protecting their privacy.
“I think that it is a step forward,” said Ari Schwartz, deputy director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, about AskEraser. “It is the first time that a large company is giving individuals choices that are so transparent.”
But underscoring how difficult it is to completely erase one’s digital footprints, the information typed by users of AskEraser into Ask.com will not disappear completely. Ask.com relies on Google to deliver many of the ads that appear next to its search results. Under an agreement between the two companies, Ask.com will continue to pass query information on to Google. Mr. Leeds acknowledged that AskEraser cannot promise complete anonymity, but said it would greatly increase privacy protections for users who want them, as Google is contractually constrained in what it can do with that information. A Google spokesman said the company uses the information to place relevant ads and to fight certain online scams.
So Google gets your information anyway, even when you use their competitor and a stealth widget. Interesting. Why do we bother having the CIA look for Osama Bin Laden? Just ask Google where he is. They seem to keep track of everybody pretty well.