AskEraser Won’t Ask and Tell

Seeking to create a point-of-difference, Ask.com unveiled its new service called “AskEraser” a safeguard that purges a user’s search requests from Ask.com’s servers within hours. Google, which dominates 65% of search activity, stores personal information for 18 months. This is a scrappy move from Ask.com, which commands only 5% of search activity according to HitWise.

Privacy advocates criticized the feature, arguing that AskEraser is a pre-emptive response to the building pressure for government safeguards growing in North America. In this administration? I can’t imagine pressure from any quarter for such high-minded ideals as the right to privacy having any impact on the curent leadership in Washington. I do think Barry Diller, who owns Ask.com, is creating a certain type of information environment that is a branded experience with features that make e-commerce less worrisome. Consumers can feel a sense of control over who gets a peek at their e-privates. For example, AskEraser’s fine print warns users that online surveys offered by third-parties may have different policies and may store their data. Users can then opt out.

Research on consumer attitudes toward privacy have mistaken confusion for consumer indifference. Look, people don’t know what to fear! When and how will their info be misused? Why? Where’s the harm beyond identity theft, which if you live in a major city has already happened to you at least once thanks to a pickpocket. Having to imagine a consequence takes too much cognitive effort. Ask.com has just made it simpler for people to search–relax, don’t worry, dive in the water’s safe. Nice little point-of-difference for an underdog.