Ask.com, the search engine site, announced on Tuesday a new feature that allows users to completely erase their search queries in an attempt to increase personal privacy while surfing the Internet.
The new feature titled AskEraser will be featured on the site's homepage and the corresponding search results pages. The feature allows user to control whether they want their searched data to be retained by the search engine or not. This is done by selecting if the feature should be On or Off as the user searches for information.
Anonymized search data provides online companies with important information to optimize the overall search experience, said Doug Leeds, senior vice president at Ask.com in a statement.
Earlier this year, Ask.com implemented a new data retention policy to disassociate search history from IP address and User ID after 18 months.
Ask.com, part of Internet conglomerate IAC/InterActiveCorp, accounts for just 2.9 percent of the U.S. search market in October behind Google Inc., Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Time Warner Inc.'s AOL, according to research group Nielsen Online.
The information typed by users of AskEraser into Ask.com will not disappear immediately, but will first be sent to Google.com. The company recently signed a five-year contract with Google, allowing them to serve ads alongside Ask.com search results. Currently, Google does not have any obligation to delete the data even if the user from Ask.com has selected to use the AskEraser feature.
Ask.com said the technology, which was developed in-house, will be immediately available to users in the U.S. and the U.K. and will be rolled out globally in 2008.
Online privacy has been of hot topic of debate as marketers continue to seek web site users' private data to effectively target their messages across to them. Popular social networking site, Facebook, came under scrutiny with the launch of their controversial advertising program that tracked all users' behavior on Facebook affiliated websites.