A new privacy feature by search engine Ask.com gives users the option to have their search history deleted within a few hours.
When enabled by the user, the feature will completely delete search queries and associated cookie information from Ask.com servers — including IP addresses, user IDs, session IDs, and the text of queries made, according to the company. In most cases, the deletion will take place within a few hours of the time a search is completed, the company said.
Dubbed "AskEraser," the feature will be available in the United States and the United Kingdom. The service does not prevent third parties from storing user data, however, and that includes Google (with whom Ask.com has a partnership for display ads).
AskEraser works for future searches, which means you have to activate it, and then your search history moving forward will be deleted.
Ask.com trails way behind the search biggies like Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft (one reason for the privacy-friendly move). However, the new feature is a first among its rivals, who save user search history for longer periods (Google for 18 months and Yahoo and Microsoft for 13 months). In fact, this new move may draw flak from law enforcement agencies.
Search engines emphasize that search history helps keep results more relevant and tailored to user preference, but that definitely is not the only way to get relevant results. Hakia, a semantics technology-based engine, doesn't use browser history data and is one example that activity logging is necessary for relevancy of results.
Erase Your Search Tracks (BusinessWeek)