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Ask’s AskEraser Release

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I’m not sure what is more impressive. Ask.com’s official launch of its privacy protection called AskEraser, or all of the press coverage the company is getting from the announcement.

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I’ll get to the details of AskEraser in a moment, but take a look at your RSS feeds, favorite online news source, or even your newspaper, and you’ll see mention of Ask.com’s efforts to protect user privacy. What a piece of PR genius by Ask!

Privacy and security have been hot topics in the world of search engines this year, and Ask has not only launched the first tool to address concerns, but it’s made the announcement on a day when there’s little news from Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo. The end result? Everyone is seeing: Privacy + Search = Ask.com.

OK, so on to the actual announcement for AskEraser.

When enabled by the user, AskEraser completely deletes all future search queries and associated cookie information from Ask.com servers, including IP address, User ID, Session ID, and the complete text of their queries.

An AskEraser link is featured prominently in the upper right corner of the Ask.com homepage and search results pages – clearly and constantly indicating to the user that their search activity will be ‘erased’ from Ask.com servers. AskEraser remains ‘on’ for searches conducted across Ask.com’s major search verticals: Web, Images, AskCity, News, Blogs, Video, and Maps & Directions – and can be turned ‘on’ or ‘off’ by the user at anytime.

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Hype aside, there’s really not that much to celebrate here. Agreed, it’s great that a search engine is giving us the option to completely nuke all of our personal data, but what difference does that make when the search engine in question has less than 5% market share? Not a lot, except when you consider the noise Ask is making with this announcement. With the attention Ask is getting today, you can bet that mainstream media–and perhaps search users–are quickly asking, “If Ask.com can do this, why can’t Google?”

And that’s pretty much the big deal with today’s announcement. While Ask may pick up 1/8 of a point of market share, its real victory will come from being the company that re-started the discussions on privacy protection. You may not end up using AskEraser, but you might want to add Ask’s CEO Jim Lanzone to your Christmas card list. After all, he might just have given us a great present this year–and with the gift receipt, we might get the chance to exchange AskEraser for something similar from Google. ;-)

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