Is Startpage Legit? Here’s Everything You Need to Know
Is Startpage search engine legitimate? It’s one of the best proxy search engines on the web. However, like any online service, it has both advantages and disadvantages from a privacy and security standpoint.
Let’s break down the good and bad about Startpage.
Is Startpage Legit? The Good
We’ll start our mini Startpage review with some of the search engine’s positive aspects.
1. Startpage Does Not Keep Logs
Startpage claims to be the world’s most private search engine. It has a few features to back up the claim.
Chief among them is the lack of logs. Startpage does not keep the IP addresses of the people that use its services, nor does it deploy tracking cookies on its users’ machines. Indeed, the company claims to have no knowledge of who its customers are.
Unlike many other search engines, it offers proof. Its no-logs policy and privacy features were documented by a third-party audit. As further proof of its security, Startpage has not received a single government request for user data throughout its entire existence.
2. Startpage Uses HTTPS
All your searches on Startpage are encrypted using HTTPS.
The encryption protects you against basic internet snooping. There is no way for someone who’s monitoring your connection (for example, on an insecure public Wi-Fi network) to see what you’ve been searching for or clicking on.
3. Google Without Google
Based purely on the quality of search results, Google is undeniably the best search engine in the world. Sadly, it is also one of the most laissez-faire with your data and privacy.
For someone who needs high-quality search results and has concerns about their privacy, it poses a question: can we trade quality for privacy?
Startpage lets you enjoy the benefits of Google results without any of the privacy downsides. It acts as an intermediary, submitting your queries to Google anonymously then returning your results to you privately. Google never has any idea who you are.
4. Anonymous View Proxy
Startpage’s Anonymous View feature is a relatively new development. It lets you view any site in a list of search results through a proxy, thus preventing the site you’re visiting from learning about your:
- Content stored in cookies
- Content stored in caches
- Browser type
- Network settings
- And more…
You can view any search result in Anonymous View by clicking on the adjacent link.
5. Startpage Has Won Privacy Awards
Before rebranding as Startpage, the search engine was called Ixquick. In the Ixquick days, it was awarded the first European Privacy Seal (EuroPriSe) in 2008. It was given the award again in 2011, 2013, and 2015.
The EU gives the award to companies that meet its requirements for data security and privacy after progressing through stringent design and technical audits.
In 2019, Startpage also won the 2019 Dutch Privacy Award for Best Consumer Product, mainly thanks to its Anonymous View feature.
Here’s what the company’s Business Development Director, Alex van Eesteren, said upon receiving the award:
“We are honored the National Privacy Conference has recognized our commitment to creating tools that protect privacy. With Startpage.com, consumers can search in privacy and also visit websites anonymously. We call this Search 2.0, with a top focus on privacy by design.”
Is Startpage Legit? The Bad
Okay, enough positivity. Nothing is that perfect. What are some of the bad things about Startpage? Is Startpage a scam?
1. Nine Eyes Location
Startpage is based in The Netherlands, and that raises some concerns.
The Netherlands is one of the Nine Eyes countries, along with the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France, Denmark, and Norway. Nine Eyes is the “second-tier” of the infamous Five Eyes group, one of the largest and most important intelligence alliances in the world.
In theory, Startpage’s lack of logs helps the company to isolate itself from the demands of being based in a country that’s part of the program. For instance, Startpage could never comply with the most controversial aspects of US domestic intelligence gathering, like PRISM, if it has nothing to share.
However, it’s a case of never-say-never. Startpage claims that “European governments cannot just start forcing service providers like us to implement a blanket spying program on their users.” Legally speaking, that’s not true.
For example, the Netherlands has already chosen to ignore an April 2014 decision by the European Court of Justice that invalidated the European Data Retention Directive. As such, the country still requires all ISPs to retain the personal data, web-browsing history, and email data of their customers for the duration of their contract, and for six months after they leave the service.
Is it so far-fetched to imagine that the law could one day also be expanded to include search engines?
2. Startpage Is For-Profit
Startpage BV is a privately held Dutch company. According to its own literature, the business has been profitable since 2004.
Look, we don’t begrudge companies trying to make a profit. Capitalism makes the world go around. However, given Startpage’s grandiose statements about privacy and data protection, the organization’s profitability does raise an interesting question—how does Startpage make money?
Here’s what Startpage says about the situation on its website:
“Startpage.com generates its income from advertising. When you perform a Startpage.com search, you may see up to three sponsored search results at the top of the results page. These ads are labeled accordingly. Clicking a sponsored link will take you off the Startpage.com website to an advertiser’s website.”
Of course, all of that changes as soon as you click on an ad. The ads are not managed by Startpage, so they’re not available using Anonymous View. Clicking on an ad means you’re going to be exposed to the usual torrent of data-collection tricks used by advertising companies.
3. Startpage Does Collect Some Data
“We […] count aggregate numbers. We do measure overall traffic numbers and some other—strictly anonymous—statistics. These stats may include the number of times our service is accessed by a certain operating system, a type of browser, a language, etc., but we don’t know anything about individual users.”
We understand that some data collection is required to make sure Startpage is able to offer a service that works for all its users. And remember, it’s a for-profit business that runs ads. The advertisers will demand to see at least some data about the type of people who are likely to see their content.
Is Startpage Legit?
Unless you’re totally averse to any type of data logging (in which case, you really shouldn’t be using the web at all), Startpage is a legitimate search engine. It definitely offers far more user privacy and protection than services like Google and Bing. Only the most paranoid users could believe that Startpage is a scam.
Nonetheless, as the bad things about Startpage show, no company should be taken at face value. There is always something a tiny bit unpleasant lurking if you scratch away the surface.
We also recommend using Startpage in combination with other security measures, such as a VPN and better security practices. Check out the best VPN services that we recommend.
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