Privacy Group Finds Flaws In AskEraser’s Privacy Tool

Group says Ask’s privacy feature is flawed from News.com reports that the Electronic Privacy Information Center has found a few flaws in AskEraser, Ask.com’s new privacy searching feature. The three problems are:

  • AskEraser uses an opt-out cookie instead of an opt-in cookie.
  • Ask stores the time that the user enables AskEraser, which can potentially be used to figure out searches done while using AskEraser.
  • Ask’s FAQs says that if a court order requires them to turn over search data, even with AskEraser on, they will.

My main issue is with the last point is that Ask has this line in the FAQs:

Formal legal request — Ask.com must abide by the laws and regulations of local, state and federal authorities. 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.

Even if you have AskEraser on, they still may store your searches, if required by law enforcement. The question is, are they storing this information anyway or are they only going to bypass AskEraser when law enforcement requires? Note: AskEraser is not an eraser; it simply tells Ask.com not to store certain data about your searches. This implies that Ask has to override this setting for specific computers that law enforcement requires. If that is the case, then I am not too bothered by this.

Of course, if Google AdWords ads are on Ask.com’s search pages, Google is storing data about your searches at Ask.com, even with AskEraser on.

Related Topics: Ask: General | Ask: Web Search | Channel: Search Marketing | Legal: Privacy

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About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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