Tool Protects Privacy Of Internet Users

privacy search

The service, AskEraser, is the first to give consumers privacy control over their online searches, according to the company.

AskEraser can delete all future search queries and cookie information from Oakland, Calif.-based's servers, including IP addresses, User ID, Session ID, and the text of their queries, the company said.

To work, an AskEraser link is featured on the site's home page, giving a user the option to turn the feature "On" or "Off" during a user's search requests.

Information can be erased from all services, including Web, Images, AskCity, News, Blogs, Video and Maps and Directions. The feature, available Tuesday for U.S. and U.K. users, will expand to global sites in 2008.

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"For people who worry about their online privacy, AskEraser now gives them control of their search information," CEO Jim Lanzoine said in a statement. "AskEraser is simple, straightforward and easy to use. It's an idea whose time has come."

AskEraser offers a significant addition to Internet privacy rights and consumer choice, said Ari Schwartz, deputy director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, in Washington, D.C. In addition, corporations may also be able to use this service to set worker data retention policies, he added.

For example, companies might be interested in setting limits on online data retention of employees to protect against lawsuits that might request such data, he said. "This is new. It is something to experiment with," Schwartz said. "We are going to learn a lot because no one has ever done this before.", owned by InterActive Corp., earlier this year instituted a data retention policy to separate a person's search history from their identifying Internet information after 18 months. In July, it joined with Microsoft in urging the online industry to develop privacy principles for data collection and use and protection related to searching and online advertising, the company said.

Barry Parr, media analyst for Jupiter Research, said deserves much credit for innovating in a search market dominated by giants Google and Yahoo. "They are trying to do new things in a market where it's a challenge to move market share," he said.

Research firm Nielsen Online ranks the fifth largest U.S. search engine, with 3 percent markert share, based on October traffic. Google was the largest with a 55 percent share, followed by Yahoo (19 percent), Microsoft (14 percent) and AOL (4 percent).