Startpage Search owner changes raise serious questions
Startpage announced on September 28, 2019 on the official Startpage blog that Privacy One Group Ltd has made an investment in Startpage.com. The announcement revealed that the relationship between the two groups started in January 2019 and that Startpage will continue to deliver "quality, unbiased search results while respecting online privacy and never storing consumer data" going forward.
The Internet has little information about Privacy One Group Ltd. A Limited companies search returns no hits and most information that is available online has been published after the Startpage announcement.
Startpage revealed in the press release that Privacy One Group Ltd is owned by System1; that fact and the lack of information surrounding Privacy One Group Ltd caused uncertainty and confusion.
A search for System1 returns more information. The company operates out of Venice in the United States and it becomes clear quickly that it is an advertising company.
System1 was founded in Venice, CA with a simple mission - use technology to make advertising better and safer, while respecting consumer privacy.
To summarize: an advertising company (System1) has a "separate operating unit" that focuses on user privacy (Privacy One Group) that acquired a stake (how much) of the privacy focused search engine Startpage.
It is clear that such a scenario would raise questions. What is Privacy One Group Ltd all about? How much control do the original owners of Startpage still have over the company and the decision making processes? Does System1 benefit in any way?
These questions have not been answered.
Privacytools.io delisted Startpage after trying to get answers; this means that the service no longer recommends Startpage. PrivacyTools notes in the announcement that it has no evidence of Startpage violating its privacy policies and that the decision was based on a number of unanswered questions and Startpage's evasive behavior in regards to these questions.
In particular, PrivacyTools wants to know:
- The percentage of stakes that System1 / Privacy One Group Ltd acquired from Surfboard Holding B.V.
- The current percentage of ownership by System1.
- Information about Privacy One Group Ltd including its corporate structure, country of registration and operation.
- Data flow diagrams to indicate which data flows to outside organizations.
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