It may be time to switch to DuckDuckGo or Startpage for web search
News about the government surveillance system PRISM broke only a couple of days ago even though it appears to have been in use for years. Major tech companies such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook or Apple have reportedly been involved in the program. While it is not clear how each company is involved, newspapers like The Guardian report that the NSA had access to email, chat messages, video conferencing or file transfers.
The three companies that control a large part of the search engine traffic in most regions of the world are all involved, and while that makes up just a small part of online activities of most users, it is nevertheless an important one.
I mentioned yesterday that DuckDuckGo's traffic surged in the wake of PRISM and that other privacy focused search engines such as Startpage are likely seeing an uptick in user requests due to the revelation.
The creators of Startpage have published a PRISM related page on their domain that assures users that it was never a part of PRISM, and that it never send a single byte of traffic to the US government in its 14 years of existence.
It highlights how Startpage, and Ixquick, another search engine operated by the company, is different from US companies associated with PRISM:
- They do not store user data like the IP address and searches, and do not use tracking cookies.
- Startpage uses encrypted connections by default.
- The company is based in the Netherlands and not US.
- Stronger privacy rights in Europe.
The quality of search is important as well. A privacy-minded search engine that does not provide you with great or even good search results would not really be an alternative after all.
Startpage unlike DuckDuckGo uses Google's search results but filters them through a proxy so that you are not put in a bubble or receive personalized search results based on that. Basically, you get Google's search quality without the negative aspects of it.
What both search engines have in common is that they value the privacy of their users. I suggest you give both a try to see which one you like better. Or maybe, you will end up using both, who knows.
Adding the search engine to your web browser
Some Startpage specific features
- You can view results using a proxy instead of making a direct connection to the website. This is great if the site is blocked, and also if you do not want to reveal your identity to the site you are connecting to.
- Preferences can be saved as a cookie or as a specially generated url to avoid using cookies.
- You can enable anonymous video and images searching in the preferences.
As I said earlier, search is just a small part of the equation, with email, chat, social networking sites and other forms of communication more in the focus than user searches. One has to start somewhere to make a difference though and search is definitely one of the easier things to change.Advertisement