Recently there has been lots of talk about Startpage being acquired (or at least partially acquired) by a US company called Privacy One Group, which is a division of System1, a “data science” company that specializes in targeted advertising.
A reddit post titled, “Startpage is now owned by an advertising company” kicked off an interesting discussion that prompted many to consider alternatives.
This article will examine my findings from researching these developments with Startpage, System1, and the “Privacy One Group”. It will also explain why Startpage is no longer recommended by Restore Privacy.
Who owns Startpage now?
The exact answer to this question is not entirely clear – and it seems that is intentional.
In September 2019, Startpage posted an announcement where they explained (archived),
We most recently welcomed Privacy One Group Ltd, a privacy-focused division that is a separate operating unit of System1 LLC, as a significant new shareholder. Surfboard Holding’s founders and management continue to own an important stake in the company and lead its privacy focused-mission.
This vague statement raises many questions about the exact ownership structure and what “important stake” truly means. System1 and the “Privacy One Group” are apparently operating out of the US, while Surfboard Holding BV is a company in The Netherlands.
Here is the System1 leadership from their Who We Are page, with Michael Blend now sitting on the board of Surfboard Holding BV (as we’ll examine further below):
Startpage.com is owned and operated by Startpage BV, Postbus 1079, 3700 BB Zeist, The Netherlands.
There is no mention of System1 or the Privacy One Group, the members of which now hold an “important stake” in Startpage. Questions about the exact ownership structure have gone unanswered, aside from general statements.
But before digging deeper, let’s cover some basics.
When “privacy tools” don’t respect your privacy
One theme we’ve often discussed here at Restore Privacy is the growing trend of data collection that is carried out through cleverly-marketed “privacy tools”. Three examples illustrating this trend are:
- Browser extensions that collect data for third parties, effectively functioning as spyware.
- Free VPN services that collect data that is sold/transferred to third parties, or used by the parent company for targeted ads.
- Various “security” apps in the Google Play and Apple stores that are riddled with malware and tracking libraries.
We’ve also noticed various privacy tools that are bought up by outside companies, which may have a fundamentally different mission and business model.
How does this relate to System1 and the creation of the “Privacy One Group” that was used to acquire Startpage?
What is System1 and the “Privacy One Group”?
There appears to be very little information about the “Privacy One Group”.
While some are suggesting that this entity may be just a facade of privacy for the parent company System1, I’m not going to speculate. Ultimately, we don’t know much about the company – and neither Startpage, nor System1, nor Privacy One Group are offering these details.
Based on quotes from System1 leadership, it appears that the parent company (System1) is heavily involved in data collection and targeted advertising. Below are a few quotes, emphasis is mine.
“Our philosophy,” [Michael] Blend explains, “is that someone may want a product or service but has not yet done a formal search … we call that latent intent, intent that has not yet been demonstrated … we identify that in consumers based on a large variety of proprietary data.”
“In our business,” Blend adds, “if we can gather as much data as possible, give it off to our engineers and data scientists, and then manage the two effectively, the business can quickly scale.”
The keywords from above are “gather as much data as possible” to identify consumer intent.
System1 is a consumer internet and applications company with the most powerful audience expansion platform in the industry. As one of the largest purchasers of digital advertising in the world, we are redefining user acquisition through paid marketing and are able to attract new audiences at scale for our properties and our partners. Our proprietary best-in-class buy/sell technology platform leverages our advanced data science capabilities and strategic partnerships. Founded in 2013, the company is headquartered in Venice, CA, with additional offices in the U.S., Canada and the UK and has over 275 employees.
Data collection and advertising go hand-in-hand, just ask Google – or the people behind System1. From the Los Angeles Business Journal:
System1 uses statistical and machine-learning models to group consumers into thousands of audience profiles, which then are used to match those consumers with relevant advertising, said Chuck Ursini, chief executive of the firm, in an email.
“A search engine typically determines consumer intent when a consumer enters a search term into a search box. However, less than 5 percent of time online is spent searching at a search engine,” Ursini said. “Our pre-targeting algorithms work by identifying consumer intent the other 95 percent of the time online.”
And lastly, from a Biz Journals article:
System1 raises $270 million for ‘consumer intent’ advertising
Silicon Beach ad-tech firm System1 has closed $270 million in financing.
Founded in 2013, the Venice, California-based company, formerly known as OpenMail, is an independent marketplace for keyword pay-per-click advertising.
System1 has developed a pre-targeting platform that identifies and unlocks consumer intent across channels including social, native, email, search, market research and lead generation rather than relying solely on what consumers enter into search boxes.
The round was led by Court Square Capital Partners, a New York middle-market private equity firm.
Startpage originally bragged about how their users would not be targeted based on data profiling. Instead, Startpage would server ads based only on what the user entered into the search box. As a business model, System1 appears to do the opposite.
Board member changes at Surfboard Holding BV
Public records show that both Michael Blend (co-founder of System1) and John Paul Civantos (Managing Partner at Court Square Capital) joined the Surfboard Holding board of directors on December 31, 2018.
English translation of corporate records:
So here we have an investor from New York and the co-founder of System1 sitting on the board of directors for Surfboard Hoalding BV, the parent company of Startpage. Ian Weingarten is currently the CEO of System1 and Robert Beens is the CEO of Startpage.
Also notice that this change happened on December 31, 2018. Yet Startpage’s leadership did not make any announcement of this change until October 2019, where they described it as a “most recent” change. I do not think that a nine-month delay is a “most recent” development.
Why did they wait so long to tell people?
Can Startpage, System1, and the “Privacy One Group” be trusted with your privacy?
Short answer: you decide.
Choosing privacy tools is a subjective process and everyone has their own unique needs and threat model. When making this decision, you should examine the facts and assess whether a product or service meets your needs.
With that being said, my general rule here at Restore Privacy is to only recommend products and services that I would personally trust and use myself. Therefore I will not be recommending Startpage as a private search engine due to some lingering concerns I have. These concerns include:
- The fact that System1 has acquired a stake in Startpage and is not disclosing the details.
- The history and business model of System1, which includes gathering “as much data as possible” and profiling users for targeted ads.
- The board of directors change at Surfboard Holding BV, to appoint the System1 co-founder and an outside investor.
- The nine-month delay in alerting the public to these changes, and then announcing it as a “most recent” change.
- The contradictory business models of System1 and a truly private search engine.
There are some in the privacy community calling System1 a “surveillance company” – but I will avoid any speculation and simply focus on the facts. I see no evidence that System1, the Privacy One Group, or Startpage are violating any of their own policies or laws.
In preparation for this article, I asked Startpage to provide answers and clarification on the following items:
- The percent of Startpage and Surfboard Holding B.V. (the Startpage holding company) System1 acquired in December 2018.
- The current percent ownership by System1 at the time of the audit (and any other major owners).
- Information about Privacy One Group Ltd. Where is it registered, and in what city, state and country does it operate? Who are the owners? How exactly is it connected to System1 and the people behind System1?
- A diagram of data flows, including flows to outside organizations, like System1, Privacy One etc.
Startpage has not answered any of these questions. I will continue to monitor the situation and update this article and my recommendations based on new information.
Startpage is no longer being recommended in the private search engines guide. It has also been removed from the list of Google search alternatives and privacy tools.
Similarly, PrivacyTools.io has also delisted Startpage, as they explained here.
Startpage’s About us page still warns users about the dangers of data collection and how this gives data collectors the ability to “virtually own you.”
Problem is, the new board members and owners of Startpage are literally in the business of gathering “as much data as possible.”
See my updated guide on the best private search engines for the latest recommendations.
Update: Startpage offers further clarification
Just two days after posting this article, Startpage released two new support articles:
- What is Startpage’s relationship with Privacy One/System1 and what does this mean for my privacy protections?
- Startpage CEO Robert Beens discusses the investment from Privacy One / System1
In short, these articles confirm what we suspected, that System1 has majority ownership in Startpage, through their subsidiary the “Privacy One Group”. This is no surprise, especially given the changes to Surfboard Holding’s board.
The new articles posted by Startpage include statements from Robert Beens (CEO, Startpage), Michael Blend (Chairman, System1), and Ian Weingarten (CEO, System1). These statements attempt to restore faith in Startpage’s privacy protections and policies. Whether you want to trust these claims or not is your decision.
At the end of the day, an American ad-tech company that seeks to “gather as much data as possible” is still the majority owner of Startpage, a search engine that could be used to collect data.
I use Startpage via TOR, and have documented them CENSORING certain search terms, claiming these are triggering their abuse block, yet THE EXACT SAME IP (TOR exit node) WITH A DIFFERENT SEARCH TERM, WORKS FINE.
I cannot detect a pattern in the terms that causes this. This IS common enough that it is making Startpage unusable via TOR.
TOR is the ONLY way to put a PHYSICAL privacy protection in place.
I guess Startpage’s strategy is to cull the users who want privacy, then keep only the naive ones who think their words are binding and trust them. Then exploit their data. Otherwise why bother?
Also, their “anonymous” proxy puts the plaintext original url in the longform proxy url, just so far to the right you cannot see it unless you copy and paste the url from the browser or scroll all the way to the right in the url bar.
Just checking …
We apologize for the inconvenience: to prevent possible abuse of our service, your ability to connect to Startpage has been suspended at this time.
***** This happens when a large number of search requests are received from a particular internet connection during a short period of time. *****
[This is a lie of omission because it is NOT as simple as being from a particular IP, as I have proven]
“We are always seeking to refine and correct this whenever possible. Thank you for your patience.”
[Define “seeking” – is not the same as “we promise to find a solution” – Define “possible” – easily manipulated to say “not possible for (spurious) technical reasons”].
This behaviour from Startpage is replicable, not a one-off.
There are only two things that smell of fish, and one is fish.
I started using StartPage last year. Meanwhile, I added uBlock Origin to Firefox, and almost straight away, StartPage refused to carry out my search requests because I had disabled Java Script disabled. When I looked closer into this issue, I found that Duck Duck go and Metager both search without Java Script being enabled, so why not StartPage?
As I say, only two things that smell of fish, and one is fish. Now I have the story about StartPage being taken over by these people I have the suspicion that they are not what they pretend to be. Now maybe I am wrong, but I am not taking the risk when there are other search engines that do not block me because I tighten my settings.
Hello, I’m also StartPage User that disable the JS function on StartPage, I never been blocked and still disable JS on Startpage, and I think their trigger hook probably raise false alarm, as it’s a long list of manual trigger hook DB.
You can try to contact them for solve that issue.
If I don’t use their stylesheet, nothing is hidden.
For some people with trimethylaminuria, everything smells of fish. There are plenty of web search engines out there, though.
From the article on Startpage you cite quoting Beens:
“The investment from System1’s Privacy One Group does not change our mission – to bring true search privacy to more people – it will help us to further it. To ensure this, the investment includes covenants that ensure complete control over all privacy-related decisions remains with Startpage and its management team.”
An investment is not majority ownership. There is no “there, there.”
Wow, I haven’t looked into this issue in a long time. There was more evidence that came out after this article was written, I believe.
It’s also crucial to point out the obvious: System1 and StartPage have refused to explain exactly how much the “investment” includes. There’s obviously a reason for this lack of transparency.
Just came across this as I just was curious & have started searching (or attempting to) WHO owns WHAT (after being hacked by an Apple Engineer recently in my new iPhone with 2 step authentication & settings set to as private as possible (that they allow) unencrypted email etc. I don’t surf the net or go to porn or spammy sites or even have Facebook so it was completely shocking ! (Apple did nothing btw even though my case was taken over by an Executive in Cupertino)
Anyway I was wondering if you have a website or channel or any other platforms more private that don’t censor I couid check out. I want to link up with more tek savy people & learn how to create my own vpn/server/jailbreak my device & install perhaps Linux etc. do u have any suggestions? Keep up the good work my friend & TY sooo much for exposing SP!!! I recall years ago when they first came out searching & discovering the original Developer worked for Google & they bought them out so was excited when I read that article about Surfboard Holding (thinking well that was easy & too good to be true lol) and it WAS!! I have nothing to bid actually just standing up for what I do have which is my RIGHT to privacy! Take care my friend!
Hi Jada, this site is all we have for now, plus the comments section.
The comments on Start page Firefox’s extension brought me there, so i’m not gonna read all the comments again, just thank you for the article ! i was asking myself why Firefox was no more offering Start-page choice in the default browser list…i did my research…and so now..i’ve got it !
I’m european so i’m asking myself must i choose Duckduck go or Qwant as search engine ? I tried Qwant once, but i found it not enough minimalist (and i know it is not the more meaningfull argument)…i will try it again and maybe ill keep an eye on it… At the contrary i’m really happy to know that Firefox keep the good spirit. Crossing fingers that they’ll keep it strong and for a long time (should i hope ‘forever’ ?) !!! What about the project of Mozilla for its Firefox baby ? I heard and red on some places that they wanted to gave it up. I hope they will change their mind if what I heard was true. I’m ok to donate, or crowdfounding or what if necessary. That might seems a bit naive, or maybe is it just a fuzzy nostalgia (i prefer to say its just a good XP 🙂 ) ? Again thank you for this complete and satisfying article 🙂 Edit : i finally red a bit of comments, thanks to @Restorer for the tips. And now i have to say that i dont work for Firefox and take 0 benefit for talking about it — but for a non lucrative business isn’t it just ‘normal’ 🙂
I quit using Mozilla Firefox years ago when they disabled “about configuration” I liked being able to adjust the integers to make my dumb Microsoft Windows laptop run faster …the same guys are buying out big tech as well as the food industry so it’s diffcult to find trustworthy companies & the more they grow the worse they become as in TRACFONEWireless owning STRAIGHTTALK Wireless but now (as of this past November I believe) were bought out by VERIZON! Btw…the Elitists are also buying out The FOOD industry!!
About your notations, Ex1.-> “There are some in the privacy community calling System1 a “surveillance company” – but I will avoid any speculation and simply focus on the facts.”
Ex.2 ->”There are some in the privacy community calling System1 a “surveillance company” – but I will avoid any speculation and simply focus on the facts. I see no evidence that System1, the Privacy One Group, or Startpage are violating any of their own policies or laws.”
Per ex 1.-> I’d say/suggest, ‘ There are some in the privacy community calling System1 a “surveillance company” – but I will avoid any speculation and simply focus on the facts]which I’m aware of [. Very often, just as the MSM or globalist media quote their “facts’ off their scripts, that they come off that they’re aware of everything 100% on the subject they’ve researched or given second hand, and don’t really know it all. We need to be better than that/
Per ex 2. -> I would recommend, instead, ‘There are some in the privacy community calling System1 a ‘ I ]personally[ see no evidence that System1, the Privacy One Group, or Startpage are violating any of their own policies or laws.’
By the way, thanks for the brief insight about CyberGhost, I am so concerned about so many people out there selling out the nefarious characters which are only interested in the money than they are of humanity. I am currently keeping caution about Brave since its owners answered a question, leaving us to think they may be open to the highest bidder no matter who(m) that might be. Even their search engine selection function is questionable, since the “add” search engines added doesn’t give you the option(that selection is faded out) to select any of those as default search engine.
BRAVE sucks as well as OPERA! BOTH were saving search results even though settings were set to NOT save. I’d see random old search result links pop up as I started typing which shocked me (shouldn’t by now..) but Opera also in the App Store wouldn’t allow me to post a review & instead got a pop up WHILE the app was on my device RECENTLY (meaning within the past month 3/18/2022) stating that you had to be owner of this app to post a review (meaning have the app installed or downloaded on my device which WAS) they actually REDIRECTED me to another link that had a FORM to fill out AND wanted me to SIGN IN to fill out (with email of course!) they’re deleted too now. Thinking about buying Rob Braxx router…sick of all the time in searching & finding out they’re ALL getting bought out by BIG TECH….I’ve even discovered some of these companies are filing their businesses in the BVI then traced them overseas to Switzerland or some shit!!! Protons a bad one too! Quora, Reddit, FB/IG Twit, G/YT probably Tik Tok too…now all of our search is limited & controlled & difficult to find TRUTHS I call it. Hell I don’t even trust this supposed new military DRONE they’re heavily advertising on YT probably has some tracking device in it or camera watching YOU which why they’re saying it was compromised so now they’re selling so cheaply !
Current alternatives are:
These search engines use results from Google like StartPage.
Runnaroo and gibiru look shady though. No information on who runs runnaroo, and gibiru apparently expects the user to run a script directly off a google server. No thanks. Fuckoffgoogle.net looks like a searx instance. More of those here: https://searx.space/, pick your favorite.
For the record, PrivacyTools.io recommends Startpage again after they worked to answer the many questions and enough people were satisfied. It took some 6 months:
Thank you and others for digging things up.
Startpage’s answer which you noted at the end of your article is pretty thorough: [https://support.startpage.com/index.php?/Knowledgebase/Article/View/1275/0/what-is-startpages-relationship-with-privacy-onesystem1-and-what-does-this-mean-for-my-privacy-protections]
In particular their data flow diagram: [https://support.startpage.com/index.php?/Knowledgebase/Article/View/1276/0/what-is-the-startpage-privacy-guarding-data-flow]
And the fact that they are legally (by contract) in control of all privacy aspects of Startpage and are required to notify users of any privacy change.
The only remaining question that I have concerns their anonymisation and fuzzing. The diagram make it seem like System1 servers are treated the same as Google Search servers. Fuzzing should mean that random bits of data are added to each requests we make (obviously not to search terms themselves), so it should be harder to link two searches from a single user.
What I don’t know is what they do with location and fingerprint-related information. But then again I’ve always wondered that, long before System1. They remove IP, but do they replace it with only country and language, or something more precise ?
System1 gets search terms, but so did Google Search, they always have. We just need to know anonymisation processes from a technical standpoint.
Remember, privacy policies are legally binding: [https://www.quora.com/Are-privacy-policies-legally-binding]
In the EU though, you can’t avoid writing thorny details, and reporting them incorrectly should mean that you’re not complying with the GDPR, which is risky. [https://gdpr.eu/privacy-notice/]
Startpage policy says: “When you search, your query is automatically stripped of unnecessary metadata including your IP address and other identifying information. We send the anonymized search query to Google and return the search results to you. We don’t log your searches.” [https://www.startpage.com/en/privacy-policy/]
Stripped of unnecessary metadata and other identifying information: I can’t see how they could defend that anything else than location, language and search query is necessary. As for location, the more precise it is the harder it should be to claim it is not identifying.
Conclusion as far as I’m concerned, though I would love to know more about their anonymisation: Startpage = Trusted and recommended.
But as before System1, it should be remembered that search terms go to Google to retrieve results. e.g. They have a chance to correlate a search for a YouTube video and your arrival on that YouTube link.
(And I would definitely block anything Google Analytics or Doubleclick related forever, for the same reason, and regardless of search engine. Otherwise it completely defeats the purpose of using a private search engine.)
I wonder what the implications of this are for Startmail. You still list this as a viable email alternative. Any thoughts? Thanks.
Yes, I looked into this and Startmail was not purchased/affected by System1’s acquisition of Startpage. In other words, Startmail is a separate entity not under System1 – at least that was the case the last time I checked.
System1, has been up to different acquisitions through it all – do we know where they are going with this in the end?
Be nice someday to see you give us an overview to how these industry players stack up. From the mighty search engines housed in or added to a browser and how the chain has been constructed when we reach out to the web.
As by ad revenues, analytics, third party tracking, etc of all the behind the scenes companies involved…trying to get that data and profit slice on users. The sphere’s anatomy of poor governments regulations to cause such a state in where their actions seems autonomy. Beyond reason for any site’s measurement or advertising revenue, only to lose focus and going in a direction that mines users data as well profiles them.
Hey Sonar, indeed, I just updated the Secure Browser guide. It previously recommended Waterfox, but now it notes the changes with ownership and it is no longer recommended. I have not looked into the Ad-Tech industry, and only began researching when this news broke about Startpage.
I would like that, you or HEINRICH, both maybe collaborate in articles that deal with some point of the Ad-Tech industry. I like the investigative style and reasonably sound argumentation to facts, multi-perspective employed technique judgement driven approach you guys share.
HEINRICH maybe could focus on browser reviews after he’s done with clouds, I like to see one done on the Ghost Browser. He might outline this with an overview especially how it ties back to content delivery network, or content distribution network (CDN), are a layer in the internet ecosystem.
You might take a head-on approach to us understanding CDN .
A CDN, is a geographically distributed network of proxy servers and their data centers. The goal is to provide high availability and performance by distributing the service spatially relative to end users. CDNs came into existence in the late 1990s as a means for alleviating the performance bottlenecks of the Internet, even as the Internet was starting to become a mission-critical medium for people and enterprises. Since then, CDNs have grown to serve a large portion of the Internet content today, including web objects (text, graphics and scripts), downloadable objects (media files, software, documents), applications (e-commerce, portals), live streaming media, on-demand streaming media, and social media sites.
Forgot to say
Thank You : )
I might be able to add something to this bit, though more on StartMail’s aechitecture than its ownership. Indeed, their whitepaper goes into a decent enough description of how their system behaves by default that it’s clear that the strength of StartMail’s privacy protections rest more in the code than in their policies.
The description of their “user vault” (basically a LUKS volume) combined with their “queue key pair” indicates their systems and code have been designed to be about as secure as possible for a service that stores the secret key material server side. In which case the weak point is the same as it was for Hushmail when the DEA came calling: the security for transmitting any passphrases needed (or any other relevant authentication and/or recovery data).
As for what exactly is under the hood over there. The whole thing is strapped together using CPython 3 (of course, it’d be pretty dumb to have picked 2.7 at this point). The OpenPGP implementation uses the full GnuPG stack; including the GPGME C API, with its dynamically generated (via SWIG) Python bindings providing access to all of GPGME. This thing:
So comparing those two, I think StartMail probably nudges slightly ahead of ProtonMail (though PM do minimise their use of their OpenPGP.js). Well, that is for something that stores all your secret keys for you. Obviously, using GnuPG locally on your own domain will always be better or more readily made so; which is also something freely admitted to by both ProtonMail and StartMail.
Obligatory disclaimer: I’m the maintainer of those Python bindings (not that they need much maintaining at this point).
I posted this on another page, but it is more suitable here.
I have used Startmail for five years and was satisfied with their service.
I know they have denied any direct connection to, or influence by System1/ Privacy One Group and it’s associated companies. System1 has bought or have invested in, and therefore influence not only StartPage, which was excellent, info.com (another search engine), Waterfox browser, as well as MapQuest. So they know what you search, which websites you visit, and everywhere you go if you use the aforementioned products. There is a reason they buy these companies, and it is not to lose money or protect your privacy.
Their history and business model tells you what you need to know.
I do not necessarily believe StartMail’s denial. I seem to remember some questionable statements made by Google and Facebook, as well as others.
Perhaps it is just a coincidence that I now cannot renew my subscription with StartMail if I am using a VPN. The purpose of using StartMail was security and privacy, but now I am unable to continue to connect the way I have for the past five years, including when I initially subscribed.
This was their reason for my inability to renew. I remain dubious and am evaluating other options. If I cannot trust my email provider I may as well use GMail and save $60 per year.
Thanks for the information Sven. Excellent as always.
In the last week Startpage has been having ‘errors’ where it fails to search. I am in the region right next to where Startpage’s servers are located in NL, so it’s not technical or a broadband issue. I followed the dodgy acquisition and have seen Startpage creep more and more away from its original intentions.
I have stopped using it and gone back to DuckDuckGo
I think suspicion is warranted when it comes to acquisitions like this, but perhaps I can add some more context. It’s a fact that Startpage has actively contributed to internet security and privacy for quite a while and is still very open about answering user questions, even many that most companies would prefer to avoid, such as their ownership. This acquisition may not be all it’s cracked up to be.
It’s looking like that, in fact, System 1 invested and did not acquire Startpage. If that’s the case (and it is very highly likely) then the company gave money to Startpage and that, in turn, does not mean that Startpage is automatically beholden to System 1 and goes to grow the entity behind the search engine and not to acquire it.
I read somewhere that the CEO has stated that as per the investment contract he will be in control of all decisions related to privacy. I would suggest, Sven, that you reach out to System 1 and ask them if this is the case. If so, all of the red flags may not be warranted after all.
A glass half full or half empty is regardless of the percentages these red flags caused in opening our eyes to it. One line of backend code is all I’d think needed to siphon off some users data, even if at first only to the nickles worth.
Trust of the glass able to hold a users data without any outside money influencing their containment has nonetheless contaminated it’s original mission statement. Motivations par the growth in a surveillance economy and because they want to influence how you spend your time, money by their wanting to shape your digital world to their own bottom-line. We only need to look at the Google’s model. Your online interactions then have been designed to manipulate us all to what end. Seeing them as predators and not as our allies is the safest measure to send our message back. We don’t have trust in you anymore!
System1 has also acquired Waterfox. Now there will be even more telemetry https://www.waterfox.net/blog/waterfox-has-joined-system1/
Wow, big news.
Which of the various releases, since mid-December 2019, included addition of telemetry?
If you can, please control your imagination.
Hi Sven, Looks like System1 has struck again. This time they’ve scooped up Waterfox. Seems the consensus is this will have privacy ramifications.
See discussion over at GHacks – https://www.ghacks.net/2020/02/14/waterfox-web-browser-sold-to-system1/
also quite the dust-up on the reddit support forum – https://www.reddit.com/r/waterfox/
BTW, for a privacy search check searx.info, seems to work fine. It’s scraping startpage and duckduck mostly.
> the consensus
Consensus in filter bubbles. Distrust breeds distrust.
Hello Brian and Sven
To answer the question below regarding the “Ads” appearing on Ghostery, it’s alright. I’ve seen this too. Don’t worry, it’s NOT startpage.com (or System1) tracking you. This is part of Ghostery’s “Enhanced Ad Blocking” being on (which can also include visual frames, banners, pop-ups, etc. and sometimes, unfortunately, the likes of login menus).
I’ve also seen the same thing on the Reddit site, and other sites, for four or less ads.
You don’t need to report this to Ghostery, Cliqz or startpage.com. Just let Ghostery do it’s job.
Make sure in the Ghosery settings, all the opt in / out boxes are UNTICKED (unless, of course, you want to opt in to those services and are fine with your information being sent back to Ghostery / Cliqz.).
Besides, is it not better for these sites NOT to know that items they put up are being blocked and not annoying you, or profiling you, or following you around, rather than reporting it to them and then they re-code the items, or, possibly, pay companies like Ghostery, to get around blockers and have them annoying you or, possibly, tracking and profiling you?
Don’t worry excessively about this and just let your browser extensions do their job of keeping you as private as possible. You get on with enjoying the internet!
Could you advise on something, if possible, on Startpage.com, or could you please find out?
I’ve noticed recently that in Ghostery, the circle is purple, “Request Modified” and it is blocking an “unknown” tracker from “startpage.com”, and then below it a small blue circle with a line through the circle and beside the circle a certain number of “Ads”, sometimes 1 Ad, sometimes 2 Ads, sometimes as much as 4 Ads.
It doesn’t happen on all searches, just some.
Is this a false positive from Ghostery and nothing to worry about , or, considering the controversy over System1, is this someing more malicious, that even the management of startpage.com may not know about?
I don’t want to cause worry or alarm in the privacy arena, or destroy startpage.com’s reputation any more that it has been damaged,, but if someone could please explain this.
(I’ve tried to put up a screen shot here, but I cannot).
Hey Brian, not sure on that one to be honest. But you could email Startpage to see what they say.
Even Sven has not kept up-to-date with the news – that Wire has been sold to a U.S. company in early December, but is still being recommended in the “Secure Messenger” category and that searx.me has been offline for a few weeks now.
> Even Sven has not kept up-to-date with the news – that Wire has been sold to a U.S. company in early December, but is still being recommended in the “Secure Messenger” category and that searx.me has been offline for a few weeks now.
Hey Stephen, Searx.me links have been removed from most of the site now, and today I added an update to that section of the private search engines guide to clarify the latest issues with Searx. My top two private search engines are now MetaGer and Swisscows, since Searx is recommending various public instances run by third parties, which are not verified or audited to not keep logs.
Regarding Wire, I did follow the news, but did not hit the “panic” button as so many people in the privacy community are quick to do. Wire remains a Swiss company under Switzerland jurisdiction that is open source and has also been independently audited. And I’d still recommend Wire over Signal, which requires a phone number and is based in the US. So yes, I’ve been following the news, and I still use (and recommend) Wire.
Company 1 & 1 was fined by the top data protection officer for 9.6 million euros, not exactly a gift for the company. The company did not protect users’ data well enough, and this was seen as a systematic violation of the new data protection rules.
1 & 1 is not even the highest fine that was imposed. The highest amount had to be paid by the real estate company Deutsche Wohnen, an amount of 14.5 million euros. Before the new data protection regulation, a fine of a maximum of 300,000 euros was possible, while today it is 20 million euros or four percent of the annual turnover achieved worldwide, which would mean eight billion euros at Apple.
After all, data is what makes us special, it shows who we are and that is why it must be protected.