Ask Takes Your Privacy Seriously

There was an old story I was told as a kid about boiling a frog to death. As the story goes, you can’t boil a frog to death by dropping him in a pot of boiling water. But put him in cool water and bring the water to a boil, and he won’t know the difference. Eventually, the water will get so hot that the frog will die happily in the water.

In today’s age of the internet and privacy concerns, the proverbial frog is us and we are getting more forgiving and giving regarding our personal lives. We are voyeurs online, sharing photos on Flickr, making friends on MySpace, buying stuff online and finding it “cool” to see those purchases show up in Facebook.

Perhaps the most dangerous of all precedents is what our friends at the search giants are doing. Desktop Search clients documenting everything on your computer – to make finding data easier. All our mail and other data in one place – but easily given to the government without subpoena. Personalized search based on personal trends – but those trends must be extrapolated from stored data regarding your behavior.

Fortunately, there is one search engine who recognizes the dangerous precedents set my the search giants and have taken steps to remedy the problem. At least on their end. It’s unclear if this move will serve to push more users to Ask.com, but it can’t hurt.

Users have the ability to turn AskEraser on at the cost of personalizing Ask.com. Hey, does Ask really need the data they use to personalize it for you anyway?

So in a world where our privacy is going farther away, Ask is taking a sane approach and making sure that we have the choice in the matter.

Published by

Aaron Brazell

Aaron Brazell is a Baltimore, MD-based WordPress developer, a co-founder at WP Engine, WordPress core contributor and author. He wrote the book WordPress Bible and has been publishing on the web since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter, on his personal blog and view his photography at The Aperture Filter.

2 thoughts on “Ask Takes Your Privacy Seriously”

  1. Will Ask.com’s Eraser delete search data already available at their servers?

    For example, can I keep the personalization options while performing some searches and then have everything deleted when I’m done?

    I’m not sure this last bit could be possible considering how many servers things are stored in, and the number of laws in place requiring data to be backed up… but it would be great.

    Anyway, being able to disable features in exchange for privacy seems like a good trade-off, and it ties in nicely with Alex Rudloff’s post on Privacy as a Currency and my take on it (here).

  2. Hi Aaron,
    Browsers has many privacy controls inbuilt and is this feature is effective than the browser’s inbuilt privacy features, or is this just a hype?
    -Nish

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