So, what in layman's terms is the complaint about? One might simply say cookies, but that would be a gross oversimplification. To begin with, not all cookies are bad (See Tea and Tracking Cookies). The problems are in the procedures and methods used by Ask.com's toolbar mechanism. Here are just a couple of examples copied from the Complaint (click the images to see a larger version):
Not that I have anything to hide, however, a "Persistent Identifier" that allows any government agency to track and monitor . . .
No regulation of the data collected . . .
Interesting. . .
"Consumer Privacy Coalition Files FTC Complaint Against Ask.comNow, you tell me. Do you want to use a software that includes the Ask Toolbar, regardless of any changes purportedly made to the software? Not me. I'll stick with the tried and true, safe, honorable and ethical.
EPIC and five other groups filed a complaint (pdf) with the Federal Trade Commission alleging that Ask.com is engaging in unfair and deceptive trade practices with the representations concerning AskEraser, a search service that purports to protect privacy. Among the critical points highlighted by the consumer privacy coalition: (1) users must accept an AskEraser cookie and disable a genuine privacy feature in browsers that block cookies; (2) the AskEraser cookie is a unique persistent identifier that makes it easy for Ask.com, its business partners, and the government to track the activities of AskEraser users; and (3) Ask.com will disable the search delete feature -- the central purpose of the Ask Eraser service -- without notice to the user. The complaint follows a December letter (pdf) to Ask.com describing these security and privacy problems. (Jan. 19)"
- Lavasoft Responds to Toolbar Inquiry
- Lavasoft Removes Ask Toolbar Inquiry
- Lavasoft Turning to the Dark Side?
- No Ask Toolbar for WinPatrol!
- Secunia Security Advisory SA26960
- Beware of ZoneAlarm!
- Webroot Spy Sweeper Is "Out of Favor"
- Ask.com's Privacy Tool Tracks Users, Groups Tell Feds
- Ask.com Will Keep Your Secrets (Although Its Advertisers Won't)
- Ask.com Complaint (PDF from Epic.org)