Discussion: StartPage

Dear PrivacyTools community,

In October 2019, we learned that System1 had become the majority shareholder in Startpage.com via a new System1 subsidiary, Privacy One Group. Due to the uncertainty surrounding the acquisition and the initial lack of clear communication from the Startpage team towards the privacy community, we were forced to delist Startpage from PrivacyTools's search engine recommendations. In an explanatory blog post, we asked for more clarity surrounding the situation, stating:


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://blog.privacytools.io/relisting-startpage/
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Nice :slight_smile: I’ve used Qwant after SP was delisted, but still prefer Startpage over it (and DDG)

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well, i just still using all of 'em :joy: i mean they did not change after they changed ownership so sounds fine to me

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There is so much more to this situation and relisting to be said, including a conflict of interest in fact or appearance raised by a Team Member back in January. I hope others will step up with concerns that still need to be addressed. Discussing Startpage is especially painful for me since I used to consult with Startpage and there are still a few colleagues there I care about. (My concerns lie with the new majority owner System1 and its involvement, not the old Startpage.) Plus, I honor my NDA.

I am not objecting to the Startpage relisting, as I’ve said before. That’s a Privacytools decision. But I will again make some recommendations that could help consumers make more informed decisions about Startpage. Here’s an excerpt of what I wrote in response to the draft search engine update back in January 2020:

…the wording “Behind StartPage is a European company that has been obsessive about privacy since 2006” is very old. I agree with Mikaela that it’s “strange” since we know Startpage is now majority owned by U.S. company System1.

For the sake of transparency, I believe the wording should be changed so consumers don’t mistakenly believe Startpage is subject only to EU privacy laws. (It’s a gray area, I’d say.) This matters A LOT to some people, and PTIO doesn’t want to lose trust.

It’s wise that you’ve gone with [a Team Member’s] earlier warning label recommendation for Startpage over ownership. I agree that consumers should be informed that Startpage (via the holding company) is now majority owned by System1 and that System1 is involved in day-to-day processing of search data. (See the small print in that diagram that notes user personal information is fuzzed).

I recommend sharing a link to System1 instead of or in addition to the Startpage explanation now linked so consumers can evaluate System1 ownership themselves.The current link only refers to System1 as “a consumer internet company with a lot of search engine experience.” Some consumers could feel misled when they find out that System1 is actually a pay-per-click behavioral advertising company. …

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Yes, I believe the PR just re-added the original listing. An update is proposed: https://github.com/privacytoolsIO/privacytools.io/pull/1878

Thanks for sharing that update to the description, @jonah. I would recommend some additional tweaks so consumers are fully informed:

System1 might not mean anything to Privacytools visitors, and I believe it is critical to inform consumers that Startpage is now owned by a pay-per-click advertising company. Here’s a possible tweak to the warning:

Startpage was recently acquired by United States-based System1, a pay-per-click advertising company.

I recommend linking to the System1 privacy policy because System1 seems to be involved in the day-to-day processing of Startpage search data. (See the fine print in that diagram that notes user personal information is “fuzzed.”)

Perhaps you should show both the U.S. flag and Dutch flag in the listing since Startpage is now majority owned by a U.S. company, and it seems day-to-day processing of search data happens in the United States based on the fine print in this data flow diagram.

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If the requirement is that we list the pass through to System1, then we should mention that Qwant passes their data through Microsoft (and even says at the point of passthrough your data falls under Microsoft’s Privacy Policy, not Qwants), or DuckDuckGo passing their data through Microsoft and Yahoo (and they to do so under the same strict anonymized fashion that Startpage does).

Lastly, we researched to the best of our ability the jurisdiction for which Startpage falls under based on the location of System1 and because Startpage remains an independent, privately held company based in The Netherlands, they do not fall under US law.

This separates them from DDG, which is wholly owned, and headquartered in the US, or like Wire, which relocated to the US only leaving an office overseas.

In the end, (and I did help research of all the search engines, but did not take part in the actual re-listing decision), I don’t personally think it makes sense to single out Startpage for passing their data to System1, when all search engines are passing their data through non-privacy respecting ad companies. We could add the flag to all of them, or delist all of them, or we could (as we did) - add a link to each privacy policy allowing users who want to further research, a quick and easy way to do so.

Here is their blog post on this subject: https://www.startpage.com/blog/startpage-articles/startpage-relisted-on-privacytools

If the requirement is that we list the pass through to System1, then we should mention that Qwant passes their data through Microsoft (and even says at the point of passthrough your data falls under Microsoft’s Privacy Policy, not Qwants), or DuckDuckGo passing their data through Microsoft and Yahoo (and they to do so under the same strict anonymized fashion that Startpage does).

Note: With Startpage, it seems there is a difference in the processing by System1, based on the data flow diagram, Dan. System1 now owns the majority of Startpage and is seemingly involved in the day-to-day processing of “fuzzed” or “anonymized” data. We really need an audit of this processing to know exactly what is going on.

Note: I’d be really upset if Google were also getting “anonymized” Startpage data because as security experts have warned, there’s generally nothing anonymous about anonymized data. Do you know if this is happening?

I agree that there is a lot more that needs to be mentioned – and asked – of ALL privacy services. This is the point of the Questions to Ask ALL Privacy Services (QtASK) project. I recommend that Privacytools ask and post much more detailed information about ALL services so consumers can make more informed decisions – and for more transparency and trust in Privacytools recommendations.

Lastly, we researched to the best of our ability the jurisdiction for which Startpage falls under based on the location of System1 and because Startpage remains an independent, privately held company based in The Netherlands, they do not fall under US law.

Someone should reach out to the ACLU or EFF for a legal opinion on this IMHO.

EDIT: Privacytools Team Member Trai also believes a current independent audit is needed. See his reddit post, On StartPage’s Privacy Audit, And How They Might Be More Transparent

Re-opened this topic as Startpage is listed again and trying to consolidate the 100 other posts started that contribute to the discussion.

Thanks! That must have been a chore. :wink:

Check out the r/PrivacyToolsIO post that Liz included above us. An attorney specializing in GDPR law showed up, and she’s giving a wonderful ELI5 of what the GDPR means, and how easy it is for ethical companies to follow.

But one of her major points is that being “GDPR compliant” is in no way similar to a third-party privacy audit along the lines of what EuroPriSe did with StartPage back in 2015. Not the same ballpark at all, despite StartPage’s claims that it is. (Uh oh… Why are they doing this kind of stuff? It makes them look very unreliable.)

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Maybe I’m reading this wrong, but I don’t think they are claiming it’s the same. In a support page post about it, they claim they hope to do the certification and other compliance’s are the same time.

As a company, we have been GDPR compliant since May 25, 2018 and we expect to be certified by a reputable outside independent organization once a certifying entity is established. We don’t want to duplicate certification efforts, so we prefer to go for GDPR certification and other compliances together.

But I’d be remiss to not point out a double standard. Startpage hasn’t done this audit in more than 5 years and no one cared until right now. It somehow now is paramount they have an audit to be trustworthy, yet DDG, Qwant, or any other search engine has never had one and isn’t being asked to get one, even though the pass the same kind of data through ad companies similar System1.

I view it like a warrant canary. One huge issue with them is when you realize they aren’t worth the effort, and decide to stop, people sound every alarm bell for no good reason.

What did startpage gain from previous audits if no one cared they had them? Why drop that kind of cash if it didn’t matter to the public?

The biggest issue I see in all of this is that they are being held to a higher standard than anyone else.

Qwant literally says you’re subject to Microsoft’s terms of service when you use their search. Their main investor is one of the shadiest companies on the planet with a history of having little regard for any ounce of human decency. They even send part of your IP address.

DDG, which is Startpages biggest competition in the privacy world, just straight up won’t get an audit even after some of its users have begged for years. We seem to know incredibly little about their funding and ownership structure, (we know far more about Startpage and Qwant) and they, just like Startpage pass “fuzzed” or “anonymous” data to an ad agency.

The problem is, privacy policy wise, Startpage and DDG are almost identical, but DDG is given a complete pass and then people sit here and demand Startpage jump through hoops.

I am in an interesting situation. I have a direct line to Startpage. I can go to them and say “if you X, Y, and Z, the community will love you,” but I have made a personal decision not to go to them with demands of the community that are only being applied to them. I will not take part in elevating a double standard that says “you have to leap over this really low bar we set for everyone else.”

I am happy to make recommendations to them, or any other service on the planet that would greatly benefit them, PT does this all the time. Just look at how we helped VPN and Email companies meet better and stricter criteria to be on our site.

However, here I don’t believe it would matter. I think many of the loudest people beating the drum against Startpage would say “oh good they got an audit, but…” and set some new standard in which to continue the campaign.

But I’d be remiss to not point out a double standard. Startpage hasn’t done this audit in more than 5 years and no one cared until right now.

Respectfully, @danarel, you are completely wrong on that point! I’ve been recommending, as have others, that a new audit be done for quite some time. This was especially important because of the majority sale to pay-per-click ad company System1, the complete site re-do and the change in data flows that now seem to go through System1 itself.

I was confident that Startpage would get a new audit, and its own writings indicate this intention. At first, I understood the delays, but it’s been a VERY long time. What’s more, as Trai points out in his reddit post, Startpage is still using very old and (frankly) now irrelevant audits to market themselves. Trai was diplomatic in characterizing this as problematic.

…yet DDG, Qwant, or any other search engine has never had one and isn’t being asked to get one, even though the pass the same kind of data through ad companies similar System1.

Again, not true, Dan. The privacy community has been working on “Questions to ask ALL Privacy Services” (QtASK) – something I’ve been spearheading for months. While we cannot require companies to get independent audits, it’s a top question – that and open source.

IMHO we should move forward with QtASK asap so consumers can be better informed. QtASK puts the spotlight on ALL privacy services EQUALLY. Failure to move forward is actually what is unfair to companies like Startpage – and to consumers.

What did startpage gain from previous audits if no one cared they had them? Why drop that kind of cash if it didn’t matter to the public?

Startpage set up their audits as a marketing differentiator. As Trai points out, they continue to do so even though they should not be. Those audits are not only outdated, they are irrelevant and misleading at this point. Startpage ownership, its website, its data flows etc are completely changed.

The biggest issue I see in all of this is that they are being held to a higher standard than anyone else.

They chose to hold themselves out as being on a higher plane because of their audits and continue to do so.

Qwant literally says you’re subject to Microsoft’s terms of service when you use their search. Their main investor is one of the shadiest companies on the planet with a history of having little regard for any ounce of human decency. They even send part of your IP address.

DDG, which is Startpages biggest competition in the privacy world, just straight up won’t get an audit even after some of its users have begged for years. We seem to know incredibly little about their funding and ownership structure, (we know far more about Startpage and Qwant) and they, just like Startpage pass “fuzzed” or “anonymous” data to an ad agency.

If you know this, why aren’t you speaking out on this, Dan? Why are they still listed at PTIO if they are so problematic? I’d be interested to learn more, as I’m sure others would, too. Let’s not use “others are doing it, too” as an excuse.

The problem is, privacy policy wise, Startpage and DDG are almost identical, but DDG is given a complete pass and then people sit here and demand Startpage jump through hoops.

You have a platform. I encourage you to begin debate if you believe other companies need to make changes, too. Go big. Go public.

I am in an interesting situation. I have a direct line to Startpage. I can go to them and say “if you X, Y, and Z, the community will love you,” but I have made a personal decision not to go to them with demands of the community that are only being applied to them. I will not take part in elevating a double standard that says “you have to leap over this really low bar we set for everyone else.”

Startpage set its bar high – something I was proud to be a part of at one time. Maybe you should focus on bringing ALL privacy services up to higher standards. It’s unacceptable to simply accept lower (or unacceptable) standards because “everyone else is doing it.” We need to start asking the tough questions and getting complete, comparable answers.

I am happy to make recommendations to them, or any other service on the planet that would greatly benefit them, PT does this all the time. Just look at how we helped VPN and Email companies meet better and stricter criteria to be on our site.

Frankly, implementing the QtASK project would help. It would also help ensure fairness in fact and appearance.

However, here I don’t believe it would matter. I think many of the loudest people beating the drum against Startpage would say “oh good they got an audit, but…” and set some new standard in which to continue the campaign.

Let’s stop making this all about Startpage. Let’s implement QtASK and level the playing field. Let’s ask the right questions, get good answers. Let’s set uniform standards.

NOTE: I object to your removing comments from the Startpage relisting blog post to a less visible spot here. IMHO it will be seen as an attempt to limit free speech, and it will appear as yet another Conflict of Interest. I say this respectfully and encourage you to restore the original comments by esmailBob, me, Jonah etc

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Hey, all –

I just want to say that I’m really enjoying this conversation. The civility and respect for others’ viewpoints makes the PTIO forum a wonderful place. I just thought that I should get that out there. :smiley:

OK. Back to the topic at hand, StartPage’s marketing of their privacy audits, and possible discrepancies with when these were done.

Over on r/PTIO, StartPage was kind enough to respond to my query that Liz copied here. They wrote,

Thanks for pinging us! We’ve responded to audit requests on reddit before.

In 2007, we reached out to EuroPriSe. EuroPriSe performed a rigorous and thorough audit of our privacy and data-handling practices and awarded us the EuroPriSe Privacy Seal certification. EuroPriSe regularly recertified us since that time. So it wasn’t something that was done 11 years ago and that’s it. To this day, we continue to follow the strict data handling privacy practices that earned us this prestigious EuroPriSe certification.
Since GDPR went into effect in 2018, we have been GDPR compliant and continue to comply with EU / Dutch privacy laws.
In regards to requests for new audits, it’s in our roadmap to do an audit in the future. We don’t have a date to disclose. Currently, our product team is focusing on adding new privacy features.
We’ve passed your comments to our support team about the confusion in the support articles.

Please feel free to reach out to us via r/startpagesearch. Thanks!


Which was responsive of them. I then replied,

No problem. Thanks so much for responding!

I was confused when I checked the EuroPriSe Privacy Seal page. It lists all of their certifications, and when I did a Cmd-F on “StartPage”, it found three hits, as noted in my body text. The first certification is listed as above, in 2011. Then a re-certification in 2013, and another one in 2015. That’s it for the years 2008-2020. Your link’s top-left panel also lists these three instances.

But, StartPage has not only referenced these three audits, they’ve played a large role in your marketing efforts. And you’ve done this recently – as noted above, you have two blog posts emphasizing your 2011, 2013 & 2015 privacy audits dated Apr 2018 & Sep 2019. Your articles make the same claim that you’re making here, that,

EuroPriSe performed a thorough audit of our privacy and data-handling practices in 2007/2008, and has regularly certified us since.

And you’re saying here something similar, but with what could be seen as a more crafted, softened phrasing.

To this day, we continue to follow the strict data handling privacy practices that earned us this prestigious EuroPriSe certification.


  1. Could you explain what I’m missing when looking at the EuroPriSe link I provided? Is my reading correct, that the last audit they performed was in 2015? And if so, why does your marketing material as recently as late last year state that you’ve been “regularly” recertified, when apparently the last certification is now five years old? Is EuroPriSe’s site wrong, or were your two blog articles wrong?

  2. You’ve experienced a lot of growth the past several years, which is great! A good deal of your growth is due to your marketing. Which is also good! But if a significant part of that – and in my view, a key differentiator compared to competitors like Google, Bing and DuckDuckGo – was your emphasis of these third-party privacy audits. But given the discrepancy between what your marketing team emphasized as recently as 2018 & 2019, versus the reality given by the EuroPriSe site, were and are you being misleading? Why didn’t your copy say something along the lines of, “While we are proud to have been recertified as recently as 2015…” instead of giving the impression that your recertifications have been ongoing on a bi-annual basis? Why the carefully-crafted phrasing you just used that again misdirects from the fact that your most recent privacy audit is five years old? How old would a recertification have to be in order for you to retire it from your marketing arsenal?

  3. What impact on your data flows has the System1 acquisition had? Which processes have changed? You’ve made no declarations that there’s a China Wall between StartPage and System1’s data and info-sharing, so we have to assume there is sharing. What kinds of information is shared, and how? Given how significant an event a >51% acquisition is, if ever there was a need for another credible, third-party privacy audit (specifically including whatever System1’s info and data-sharing procedures with StartPage’s flows are), it is now. Do you disagree with this premise?

  4. If you do not, then can you provide a more specific timeline than “sometime in the future”? If not, can you provide a year in which you anticipate this new privacy audit being completed, and which credible privacy-auditing companies you’re considering? For what it’s worth, someone like OSTIF or EuroPriSe have good reputations – perhaps them?

  5. As u/aliceturing notes below, there’s a vast difference between being GDPR compliant and completing a third-party privacy audit from a credible entity like OSTIF. Since by European law, all companies have to conform to the GDPR, it seems like a low bar relatively. It’s nice that you’re compliant with applicable laws, but it can’t compare to a credible privacy audit. Can you stop using messaging like you just did conflating the two? It strikes me as misleading, and something designed to confuse less savvy audiences.


Again, I like StartPage. I hope that you continue your earned successes. I have some misgivings about the murky role that System1 now has, and I was especially disappointed with your marketing team for using stale certifications far past their shelf date in such a misleading fashion. StartPage doesn’t need a double-whammy like this. It’s a self-own that you could have avoided.

A great way to fix this self-inflicted wound would be to commit soon to a specific date (e.g., a month, or, a quarter, and a year) by a credible third-party privacy audit, that also examines the role that System1 has in StartPage search. Will you do this? If so, can you at least give an ETA of when you might announce this, with all three requirements met?

Thanks for listening. Again, my comments come from a place of support and wanting the best for the long-term health of StartPage.com. :slight_smile:


I was being sincere. I hope StartPage has continued success. But I think they dug themselves into a hole that DuckDuckGo or even Google avoided. Both by not communicating the nature of the System1 acquisition in a forthright, prompt fashion, and, by engaging in what I see as using misleading characterizations of the EuroPriSe audit for years. And continue doing so, literally to this day.

I believe I add value to the PTIO team because of my marketing, not technical, background. One of the maxims I live by is, Live By The Marketing Sword, Die By The Marketing Sword. I advise clients not to over-promise and to not to try being too “artful” in the claims they make as they market themselves. It’s a tempting shortcut, but do the harder work of over-delivering and treating your customers with respect instead. Out of self-interest. Because, at some point, the truth will come out . Whatever short-term gains you made will be eclipsed by the loss of trust some of your key demos. They will remember. Your word, and your brand, is the most valuable thing you have. Cherish both.

Dan, you raise a fair point: it is unique to ask for a remedy for StartPage that others aren’t being asked to do. But StartPage made missteps. Missteps that DDG, Searx, or Qwant avoided. So, for them, it’s warranted.

PS: Should I ask Jonah to give my forum avatar that snazzy PTIO icon? I want! :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

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First response (me):

I combined the threads because while you say having 1 big one may deter people, I think it’s the only way to give context and history of a discussion. Opening a new thread for similar topics is a tactic used to hide history and control narratives. We don’t need a new topic for every complaint someone has about a service. It’s why each listing has its own discussion topic.

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Second response (Startpage): Copied and pasted from their response on Reddit just now.

Could you explain what I’m missing when looking at the EuroPriSe link I provided? Is my reading correct, that the last audit they performed was in 2015?

Yes, the EuroPriSe certification from 2015 but it was valid from 06/30/2015 - 06/30/2017. In 2017 EuroRriSe was sold to a private company. We did not choose to recertify with EuroPriSe and decided to postpone a new certification until we were confident that we were certifying with a group that had the highest privacy authority for both European and GDPR privacy standards and laws

And if so, why does your marketing material as recently as late last year state that you’ve been “regularly” recertified, when apparently the last certification is now five years old? Is EuroPriSe’s site wrong, or were your two blog articles wrong?

To be clear you are quoting our support articles, not marketing materials. The Support articles are published by our support team based on the type of questions submitted by users via Support@Startpage.com. And you’re right, the support articles could be worded better and updated to reflect the situation - explaining that Startpage was regularly certified until we decided not to renew the certification with EuroPriSe in 2017.

Why the carefully-crafted phrasing you just used that again misdirects from the fact that your most recent privacy audit is five years old? How old would a recertification have to be in order for you to retire it from your marketing arsenal?

You’re right. We’ve communicated with our support team and have removed “has regularly certified us since.” We suspect this is a copy issue rather than a misrepresentation. In both articles, we’ve stated “we were certified” and that we’ve postponed our efforts in getting an audit/certification.

Our support team is worldwide and, on occasion, we do make mistakes in wording. However, we’re no longer using the audit in our marketing efforts. Even on social media, we now only refer to it when users ask questions about audits.

What impact on your data flows has the System1 acquisition had? Which processes have changed?

Since the investment by Privacy One/System1, there has been no impact in our data flows. Our engineering team has grown as has our marketing team (points to self), which is focused on developing new privacy features and increasing awareness of Startpage. There is a clear line between Startpage and Privacy One/System1. Imagine a Venn Diagram that isn’t a Venn Diagram at all because it’s two circles minding their own business.

Given how significant an event a >51% acquisition is, if ever there was a need for another credible, third-party privacy audit (specifically including whatever System1’s info and data-sharing procedures with StartPage’s flows are), it is now. Do you disagree with this premise?

We recognize there is a need to rebuild trust with the community after we fell short in quickly communicating our investment news to the Startpage community. We’re working on rebuilding that trust by increasing communication, providing greater insight, and staying true to our mission (privacy).

In the past, getting audited/certified was a painstaking and costly process that initially took us over 9 months to complete, with very high input from our team on technical and legal fronts. We were the first privacy search engine to ever audit. No other search engine ever followed our lead. However, it didn’t prove to be the selling point we were hoping it would be. We’re not saying an audit won’t happen. It is in our roadmap, but, as we’ve said, we are currently focusing on other things like bringing new features to Startpage.

If you do not, then can you provide a more specific timeline than “sometime in the future”? If not, can you provide a year in which you anticipate this new privacy audit being completed, and which credible privacy-auditing companies you’re considering?

At this time, we cannot provide a timeline or year. COVID-19 set the world back and honestly, I can’t even tell you when I’ll be back in the office.

Additionally, as we’ve mentioned above, we have an intensive product roadmap that we are committed to which pushes back any immediate audit plans. We also would welcome an industry-wide scale or scorecard to have all private search engines participate together.

Since by European law, all companies have to conform to the GDPR, it seems like a low bar relatively. It’s nice that you’re compliant with applicable laws, but it can’t compare to a credible privacy audit. Can you stop using messaging like you just did conflating the two? It strikes me as misleading, and something designed to confuse less savvy audiences.

To clarify: We’ve gone beyond being GDPR compliant. We believe privacy laws are a step forward, but companies should adhere to privacy standards regardless of GDPR or CCPA. We didn’t have to change our data flow to adhere to GDPR because we simply don’t collect user data.

And it would be great if GDPR was actually enforced or if there was a GDPR based seal. It would make our jobs easier for sure.

We hope this gives you some answers. Thanks for your support.

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Heh. I was in the process of bringing over StartPage’s response here, but you beat me to it, Dan. I was very pleased that u/StartPageSearch answered so completely.

I’ll include my reply to their response here. TL; DR: I’m happy. I’m satisfied.


Whoa. Thank you so much for such a detailed and complete response.

Thanks also for clarifying the situation with the EuroPriSe audit. I didn’t realize the certifications were for two years, which as you note, matches what your support communicated. It’s confusing as an outsider and your taking the time to explain the details is appreciated.

We recognize there is a need to rebuild trust with the community after we fell short in quickly communicating our investment news to the Startpage community. We’re working on rebuilding that trust by increasing communication, providing greater insight, and staying true to our mission (privacy).

This is great news. And if these responses are any indication of your being more communicative with your supporters, it’s heartening.

In the past, getting audited/certified was a painstaking and costly process that initially took us over 9 months to complete, with very high input from our team on technical and legal fronts. We were the first privacy search engine to ever audit. No other search engine ever followed our lead. However, it didn’t prove to be the selling point we were hoping it would be.

These kinds of trade-offs in our world of finite resources are perfectly understandable. Let alone during our COVID Era. It must have been vexing to put so many resources into having your procedures audited, then not getting the kind of response you earned.

We also would welcome an industry-wide scale or scorecard to have all private search engines participate together.

I agree. A concern that has been raised, which I’m sympathetic to, is that evaluation criteria should be applied evenly to all.

And it would be great if GDPR was actually enforced or if there was a GDPR based seal.

Tell me about it! :wink:

Again, thanks so much. As I’ve mentioned several times, my concerns come from a supportive place wishing StartPage well. I hope more people will take the chance to read your note here. I know I’ll be referring to it if/when these kinds of questions come up again.

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Since this thread at the beginning was sort of a “catchall” on Startpage, I’ll post that I’m disappointed to find that lately, Startpage is throwing many captchas out, requiring one to enable javascript in order to use the service. I was afraid this might happen after the internal changes, but it’s disappointing that you can no longer use it privately.

Edited: I think it’s the use of a VPN that triggers the captcha. I get this on profiles even where javascript is enabled, but a VPN is on. It is not in response to “bot-like” activity, but just an anti-privacy measure in response to VPNs.

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I haven’t had these problems when I used Startpage recently. I used to use Startpage as my main search engine long before they were bought out by the advertising company (I think until they updated their UI). I wouldn’t recommend Startpage anymore because it only uses Google results and does not protect from censorship. It’s just like using UnGoogled Chromium or Invidious as in you will still be dependent on Google. It’s stilll a good choice for Images since Searx’s image results are trash no matter what instance you use.

I’ve tried most of the “private” search engines and the only ones that are even worth mentioning are the seven already listed on PrivacyTools (Searx, DDG, Startpage, Qwant, MetaGer, Mojeek, and YaCy). All others are trash and don’t deserve to be called “private”, especially Swisscows (will not work without Javascript, smartredirect ads) and Ecosia (let us spy on you so we can plant trees). Even with all the captchas and the fact that they are now owned by an advertising company, Startpage is still a better choice than many search engines that advertise as private.

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