Startpage and Ixquick search engines improve user privacy further

Martin Brinkmann
Aug 25, 2013
Internet, Search

Search engines like DuckDuckGo, Startpage or Ixquick have seen a surge in visitors ever since the PRISM story broke on the Internet. The search engine DuckDuckGo nearly tripled  its daily requests and broke the four million request mark a couple of days ago for the first time in history. It is interesting to note that Startpage's traffic nearly doubled as well in the past three months.

These three search engines have in common that they have implemented measures to protect user privacy. This includes keeping user searches confidential, using encryption by default, and not storing information about searches, users or IPs on company servers.

Startpage and Ixquick are run by Dutch-based Surfboard Holding B.V., a privately held corporation that has received the 1st European Privacy Seal award by Europrise.

The core difference between the two is that Startpage makes available Google search results without the user tracking and bubbling that Google is making use of on its search engine, while Ixquick offers meta search results from several sources.

The company announced last month that it has implemented new technologies to protect users better against mass surveillance. It implemented TSL 1.1 and TLS 1.2 support on both search engines which offer better security, and Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS).

One of the issues with SSL is that a website's private key can be used to unlock past and future traffic requests, provided that they have been recorded. Keys can be obtained by court orders, attacks or cryptanalysis, and the likelihood that the latter may happen has increased with the revelation that a lot of data is recorded by agencies such as the NSA.

PFS uses session-keys for data transfers which means that obtaining a private key will only unlock that session's traffic information, but not past traffic information as different keys were used.

Both DuckDuckGo and Startpage have their advantages. What privacy-oriented users like about Startpage is that it is not operated from the US but from the Netherlands, and that it makes available Google's set of search results which many - still - consider to be superior to that of Bing which DuckDuckGo uses primarily. Still, it is always good to have choice.


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  1. wosabeu said on September 23, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    DuckDuckGo and Startpage: DuckDuckGo is a US company and is liable to the Patriot Act and US law, and so at the hands of US authorities like CIA & NSA. According to it’s own information Startpage has part of it’s servers located in the US, so liable to Patriot Act and US law too. Consequently, no such protected privacy can be offered.

  2. SubgeniusD said on August 27, 2013 at 6:27 am

    Been using Ixquick on and off for years, made it Opera default 6 mos ago. Fine for general searches but not up to the Google standard for technical or video searches. Sometimes very obscure item searches show up better (relevance and number of results) with Google as well.

    Still use it 90% and I feel it’s improving (based entirely on how frequently I need to re-search items with Google).

  3. DudeHere said on August 27, 2013 at 6:03 am

    Been using start page for a while, recently switched to, I find the interface a lot better, especially on my iPad.

  4. KRS said on August 26, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    Startpage and Ixquick hang on every search. I’ve left the rotating basketball up for half an hour, but it never resolves. What settings may be blocking it?

  5. Frickn'Del Halal said on August 26, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    Martin ,a personal request : save this page ( together with the comments) ; read it after 3 years.

  6. Firefoxlover said on August 26, 2013 at 12:03 am

    IE10 and Firefox: Ixquick
    Pale Moon: Startpage.
    Have both for many years and both work with WOT extension.

  7. Ben said on August 25, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    I have been using StartPage for about six years now. They just keep getting better and better. I am signed up to be a beta tester for their new secure email feature later this year as well. I look forward to that.

    Martin have you heard of “Zeekly” yet? This search engine was created because of the NSA scandal and mentioned on last week. It’s fairly new but lots of university students are starting to use this search engine.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on August 25, 2013 at 9:32 pm

      Have not, but will. Thanks.

  8. imu said on August 25, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    “It implemented TSL 1.1 and TLS 1.2 support on both search engines..” Does this have any value when my browser doesn’t support TLS 1.2 ?

    1. imu said on August 25, 2013 at 7:18 pm

      FF 23.01 by default is set to support TLS 1.0 so I wonder how many people will tweak this up to 1.1 since Mozilla has removed easy-access option for this .

  9. Dan said on August 25, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    I’ve never really cotton to DDG, it had inferior search results and I hate the interface. SP and IX looked much better and I’ve used them both interchangeably as my default search. Glad to see that they’re working to enhance security.

    Also, I look forward to their version of “secure email” with their Startmail service (announced but not yet released).

    1. insanelyapple said on August 26, 2013 at 8:16 am

      I feel not safe since DDG got into some partnership with russian Yandex. Also, this is interesing:

    2. Ken Saunders said on August 26, 2013 at 2:03 am

      Thanks for mentioning this.
      Startpage is my default.

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