AskEraser: Privacy Feature Needs An Overhaul Says Privacy Group

Dec 24, 2007 | 3,071 views | by Navneet Kaushal
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According to CNet Newsblog a group of privacy advocates have asked Ask.com to make changes to the recently released askEraser so as to protect the privacy of the users better.

A letter addressed to the Ask.com Chief Executive said:

"After a more careful review of AskEraser, we have found at least three significant flaws,"The letter was signed by Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, and many others. The flaws are believed to be corrigible by the privacy advocates. Further, since the stated objective of AskEraser was to protect customer privacy, hence the features of the new tool should also match with the stated objectives.

There are three problems which have been identified. “The first one is the fact that AskEraser uses an opt-out cookie.” In the present scenario a wary user usually deletes cookies, so if Ask makes use of opt-out cookies and once the opt-out cookies get deleted the privacy setting would no longer hold and the users activity would be tracked. Hence it makes this measure "counter-intuitive." A better option would be to have an opt-in cookies, as has been suggested.

Another issue is "Ask inserts the exact time that the user enables AskEraser and stores it in the cookie, which could make identifying the computer easier and make it easy for third-party tracking if the cookie were transferred to such parties." Consequently, to prevent the privacy of a user if "a session cookie that expires once the search result is returned" is made use of then it would solve the problem.

According to Nicholas Graham the Ask spokesperson "On first glance, we think the issues raised in the letter are not new, and are addressed already in our FAQ and our Privacy Policy." and further said, that they were open for talks with Mr. Rotenberg and others and address any questions they may have.

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Navneet Kaushal

Navneet Kaushal is the founder and CEO of PageTraffic, an SEO Agency in India with offices in Chicago, Mumbai and London. A leading search strategist, Navneet helps clients maintain an edge in search engines and the online media. Navneet's expertise has established PageTraffic as one of the most awarded and successful search marketing agencies.
4.thumbnail AskEraser: Privacy Feature Needs An Overhaul Says Privacy Group
4.thumbnail AskEraser: Privacy Feature Needs An Overhaul Says Privacy Group