AOL’s data leak. Project Beacon’s fallout. There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about your privacy online, so it’s understandable why Ask would be proactive in letting users control their data with a new program called “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. (One reader notes it’s only for future queries) It’s good news and gives you immediate gratification for your privacy concerns. That’s all good, if you use Ask.com for you searching.
The problem is most people don’t. A September Comscore report showed Ask was responsible for about 4.7% of all search traffic in July, which declined to 4.5% in August.
The move to privacy is simply not going to make a difference to their business. Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo have existing privacy plans in place since March, deleting personal information within at most 18 months (13 for Yahoo). Ask announced an 18 month policy in July. For years these companies succeeded with lackluster privacy promises.
The press loves to run stories about the hidden privacy concerns caused by data collected online, but consumers have taken an “out of sight out of mind” approach. DoubleClick has logged user data based on IPs and cookies for years, with only an obscure opt-out option that makes Beacon look pro-privacy (BTW, you can opt out here). It’s only going to be worse when Google’s search and analytics data is married with DoubleClick’s on site advertising information. Only when Facebook was upfront about what they were doing with user data, did people revolt. However, none of these invasions are affecting market share, nor have caused anyone I know to leave Google or Facebook.
We’re finding that people are willing to pay for the best free products, with their privacy.