Startpage Search owner changes raise serious questions

Martin Brinkmann
Nov 16, 2019
Updated • Nov 17, 2019
Internet, Search

Startpage announced on September 28, 2019 on the official Startpage blog that Privacy One Group Ltd has made an investment in 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. 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.

Closing Words

I used Startpage for years and have recommended it regularly here on this site. While there is zero evidence of privacy policy violations or unethical behavior, e.g. providing System1 with data from searches, it is concerning that Startpage did not address the questions in a clear manner.

Based on the lack of information, and that alone, I will not recommend Startpage Search. I will start using DuckDuckGo, Searx and Qwant for now.

Now You: What is your take on all of this?

Article Name
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
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  1. Filing Bee said on April 18, 2022 at 12:17 pm

    A sole proprietorship owns all of the company’s assets. He is also totally liable for all of the company’s commitments and debts. In the eyes of the law and the general public, a solo proprietor and a business are the same. All of your registrations, licences, intellectual property, and accounting requirements are handled by us. We handle all of your filing requirements and ensure that you are in compliance with the law.

  2. CoquechopzNSA-phellating-Privacy1 privacy-my-a55 said on September 16, 2021 at 4:35 pm

    I use Startpage via TOR, and have documented them CENSORING certain search terms, claiming these are triggering their abuse block, yet THE EXACT SAME IP (TOR exit node) WITH A DIFFERENT SEARCH TERM, WORKS FINE.
    I cannot detect a pattern in the terms that causes this. This IS common enough that it is making Startpage unusable via TOR.

    TOR is the ONLY way to put a PHYSICAL privacy protection in place.
    I guess Startpage’s strategy is to cull the users who want privacy, then keep only the naive ones who think their words are binding and trust them. Then exploit their data. Otherwise why bother?

    Also, their “anonymous” proxy puts the plaintext original url in the longform proxy url, just so far to the right you cannot see it unless you copy and paste the url from the browser or scroll all the way to the right in the url bar.

    Just checking …

    We apologize for the inconvenience: to prevent possible abuse of our service, your ability to connect to Startpage has been suspended at this time.

    ***** This happens when a large number of search requests are received from a particular internet connection during a short period of time. *****
    [This is a lie of omission because it is NOT as simple as being from a particular IP, as I have proven]

    “We are always seeking to refine and correct this whenever possible. Thank you for your patience.”
    [Define “seeking” – is not the same as “we promise to find a solution” – Define “possible” – easily manipulated to say “not possible for (spurious) technical reasons”].

    This behaviour from Startpage is replicable, not a one-off.

    Search Startpage (from Tor Browser latest version BUILT-IN Startpage search plugin (url bar).
    If required, repeat with different search terms until you get one that is acceptable.
    Check IP address (TOR Exit Node).
    Search for a different search term, until you get the error message.
    Try acceptable search term. Note how it suddenly doesn’t care that you are using a TOR exit node!
    Reload tab with new IP (CTRL+SHIFT+L)
    Repeat experiment again. Note how it is consistently NOT the TOR exit node IP that is causing the block, but the search TERM (AND the fact that one is using a Tor exit node, I assume).
    I made a video, but don’t have an anonymous way to upload it…

  3. Tina said on May 21, 2021 at 4:26 pm

    I noticed I was starting to get extremely targeted ads on startpage, which baffled me. I did actually take their claim of privacy at face value – stupid me.

    I mean – we are talking creepy – I was just thinking that – kind of ads.

    So irritated that company after company is data greedy – ruined it basically. I will now have to make a full effort of just staying offline.

    I do delete cookies all the time and recently thought – well they can read my head, but if they can’t address what is there, what’s the use?

    But the ads on startpage are now just so creepy I might as well be on google, bing, yahoo, duckduckgo – all the same line of evil.

  4. Wayne said on November 25, 2019 at 6:49 pm

    All true… But nothing is more suspect than DuckDuckGo! They’re obviously controlled opposition.
    “The best way to control the opposition is to lead it ourselves.” is not the most credible either. They keep recommending Brave, despite the fact that its author left Mozilla via a $1500 hoax. Brave also whitelists Twitter and Facebook trackers openly. PrivacyTools also recommend Firefox and do not list anything like: ungoogled-chromium, WaterFox, Pale Moon; browsers which verifiably have much more tracking features removed than the browsers they’re based on (Firefox & Chromium).

    Don’t knee-jerk to articles like this. Expect that finding out the truth is not as easy as trusting an authority.

  5. Dietrich said on November 22, 2019 at 5:04 am

    I’ve been using Startpage for a long time and will continue to do so. The absurd reactions and witch hunting that has occurred over this is proof that most people on the engineering side of security tech have zero business sense, which is why either they never become executives or their side projects remain small. If I were Startpage I wouldn’t disclose half the things people have been asking. Obviously most of them have never read a confidentiality contract. The important questions, such as that the tech hasn’t changed and Startpage’s founding executives retain control over all privacy decisions, is all that really matters.

    There is a MARKET for privacy, and that’s a good thing. System1 invested to make money, obviously. You can make money by marketing privacy. With this investment, Startpage will be able to scale its influence exponentially, which will more than make up from the losses from the peanut gallery.

  6. TelV said on November 19, 2019 at 1:37 pm

    Going back a bit in time does anyone remember a search engine called WebCrawler? It was later acquired by AOL who then sold it to Excite (another search engine at the time) who maintained it as a seperate search engine. When Excite went bankrupt, WebCrawler was acquired by InfoSpace.

    Come 2016 InfoSpace was sold to a company called OpenMail for $45 million. OpenMail was later renamed to System1.

    The above info courtesy of Wikipedia:

    According to L.A. Biz, System1 raised $270 million in funding in September 2017 from aa private equity firm called Court Square Capital Partners:

    Private One Group however is proving a little more difficult to track down, but we’ll get there I’m sure.

    1. TelV said on November 19, 2019 at 7:30 pm

      I was hoping to dig up some more info at Companies House UK, but Private One Group isn’t listed. System1 however is and here’s some background stuff:

      Apparently System1 was previously called Brainjuicer, but was dissolved in October 2017. However, Brainjuicer appears to be alive and well and living in Delhi, India: I came across that while searching for the current System1 CEO hoping it would provide some info on the other outfit, but to no avail (yet). Also mentioned here for what it’s worth:

  7. David said on November 18, 2019 at 2:45 pm

    The problem with is that it is not working right. It keeps looking for a captcha for Google, even if you disable the Google engine in the preferences.

    We’ve also be warned about using searX public instances in case some are dodgy and unscrupulous.

  8. Patrick said on November 18, 2019 at 12:54 pm

    Startpage is a no go for me, there is no reason for using it. I get stuck with Swisscows and I’m pretty happy with the results.

  9. Sebas said on November 18, 2019 at 9:00 am

    Someone mentioned the about page of Startpage then, until 2017, and now . It went from an elaborate commitment to privacy to: ‘All of our staff really take privacy to heart.’ under Our setup.

    That, in combination with everything else I read about the not disclosed change until now says enough for me.

    I removed the Startpage in Firefox and MetaGer, a German search engine, is now my default search engine:

    I have added it to my search engines in the way ShintoPlasm in this tread described. It offers proxying results, which you get when clicking on the open anonymously link:

    Qwant/ Qwant lite offers better results to me, and Google still gives the best results when I have to really dig, but anyway all my bookmarked websites and websites in my search history are now opened with Metager.

    searX is also good in privacy bit it results often lack for me.

    As a side note, but related to this news imo, despite having great praise for I cannot deny I feel disappointed that they now give direct links to Softonic in certain cases.

    Which I will never click on. It all seems a pattern. But then again internet was never about privacy.

  10. Léon said on November 17, 2019 at 8:33 pm

    The only constant factor in my personal computer history was Startpage.

    I will leave it now and choose for Qwant and maybe Searx. Searx I didn’t know.

  11. Anonymous said on November 17, 2019 at 8:28 pm

    This is off topic but is difficult to follow comments and answers.

    @Tom Hawack: Waterfox has not ”security.mixed_content.upgrade_display_content”, nor Pale Moon, preference.

    Do you know is it hidden preference or it has no impact? If it does not matter then maybe ”security.mixed_content.block_display_content” can change from false (default) to true.

    1. Tom Hawack said on November 18, 2019 at 5:13 pm

      @Anonymous, here on Firefox 70.0.1 ‘security.mixed_content.upgrade_display_content’ is not a hidden preference. No idea about Waterfox and Pale Moon.

      Regarding this ‘security.mixed_content.upgrade_display_content’ and it’s relation with other mixed-content settings, I’ll try to clear up the combinations :

      Mixed-Content relates settings :


      [BLOCK-1] : security.mixed_content.block_active_content, if true (default-true) will block an https site’s connections to non-https sites regarding ‘active content’ such as scripts : critical data, keep it true and let’s forget it.

      The other two are of our concern :

      [BLOCK-2] : security.mixed_content.block_display_content, if true (default=false) will block an https site’s connections to non-https sites regarding ‘display content’ such as images, non-critical data in fact

      [UPGRADE] : security.mixed_content.upgrade_display_content, if true (default=false) will try to convert to https connections made by an https site to non-https sites.

      BLOCK-2 (true) means UPGRADE (true) is pertinent IF you don’t want a secure site to connect to a non-secure site (even for only ‘display content’) but would appreciate that connection if available via https.

      BLOCK-2 (false) means UPGRADE (true) is problematic, not pertinent, because you allow a secured site to connect to a non-secured site for ‘display content’ but [UPGRADE] (true) will try to connect via https and if that fails you won’t have the ‘display content’ though you’ve allowed it.

      Conclusion : only valid combinations are :
      (A)- BLOCK-2 (false) and UPGRADE (false)
      (B)- BLOCK-2 (true) and UPGRADE (true)

      Possible issue with (B) is when you encounter a secured site which calls 3rd-party non-secured servers for, i.e. music streams, such as radio portals. Take for instance : the site is secured but calls mainly unsecured music stations : You need option (A) for that.

      So the ideal is to have a toggle button to switch from (A) to (B) : none available as an add-on at this time so I’ve made own of my own with the means of a userChromeJS script, but that’s a topic of it’s own.

      Hope that helps.

      1. Anonymous said on November 18, 2019 at 9:18 pm

        @Tom Hawack: Thank you again! If I don’t understand I am maybe a dumb, but I get it.

        – – –

        I use a few browsers and operating systems. I don’t have strong opinions which is the best or worst. Anyway, I have notice some annoying things in Firefox that many have complained here.

        I am sorry for typos and off-topic. I can read English, it is not my native language, but writing is difficult.

  12. Torin Doyle said on November 17, 2019 at 7:10 pm

    Are SP being judged to quickly?

    1. vip said on November 18, 2019 at 5:19 am

      “Are SP being judged to quickly?”

      That should be “Is SP being judged too quickly?”

      But, that aside–

      This has been going on since at least Dec. 31 last year, and we’re just now finding out about it. And StartPage is being very unforthcoming about the matter. And an employee quit (apparently) over the matter. And said employee wasn’t even fully informed by StartPage/her employer about the matter.

      In answer to your question, no, we’re not judging “to quickly.”

  13. Anonymous said on November 17, 2019 at 12:39 pm

    I hate advertisers and value privacy considerably, but all this seems like an overreaction to the point that it is suspicious.

    Startpage’s business model has always been to serve ads targeted on search terms, which while a milder privacy invasion than from Google Search, is still selling our private life to advertisers, allowing them to manipulate us based on personal, sensitive, intimate data, against money. Same for Duckduckgo and Qwant, they are not strictly speaking privacy respecting, only more privacy respecting than Google and similar, but they are still 100% surveillance capitalists (those who claim the contrary are just trying to change for their own profit the definition of privacy that everyone would have agreed on 20 years ago, surfing on the global privacy erosion trend). On the contrary, Searx is an example of a truly privacy respecting search engine.

    And not just that, they have made a deal with the mother of all privacy evil, Google, to only display Google’s search results instead of aggregating other search engine results too. This is helping Google to maximize the efficiency of their censorship and rankings manipulation that are done arbitrarily according to their business interests (meaning, against public interest, against our own interests) or worse, used to censor progressive political opposition. And more generally this is helping Google’s monopoly. One more deal with the devil.

    My point is not that Startpage is as bad as Google Search for privacy or should never have been used, it’s better and I use it often and will go on using it, my point is that considering their current ethical situation, this being purchased in part by advertisers without altering the privacy policy is not a drastic change that would justify no longer using it.

  14. stopusestartpage com said on November 17, 2019 at 10:08 am

    Reading their privacy statement I must say it always seemed “leaky” while trying to come of as sound and solid, despite that have still used their search engine, if my associated search data is in some way transferred then I can only say good luck, I must be one of the most boring average Joe user. lol :D

  15. vip said on November 17, 2019 at 5:59 am

    I jettisoned StartPage a few months ago and started using Yippy.

    Just about any privacy policy is going to mention cookies and data collected. I’m not going to be a fanatic about this. Yippy says it doesn’t track or personally identify its users; that’s good enough for me (as long as nobody proves it’s lying).

    There are no ads (except for its T-shirts). It’s fast. I like the layout of the results listing. Yippy is based in service to other businesses, so it needs to take its job seriously and not monkey around (like StartPage is now doing). Unfortunately there are no options like dark mode or advanced search; overall, it’s pretty bare bones.

    I’ve considered most of the other search engines mentioned in the comments, plus others not mentioned. I chose Yippy for various reasons (some mentioned above). I’ll stick with it unless serious reasons appear not to. Some may complain about the name, but DuckDuckGo is even worse. And who cares that it’s named after a children’s game (that I never heard of)? The name sucks shit; I won’t use it for that reason alone.

  16. ULBoom said on November 17, 2019 at 2:50 am

    I removed Startpage when I found out about this a few weeks ago. Honestly, their search results since around when the change occurred (late 2018?) have been lacking. DDG’s haven’t been that good lately, either, whatever that may mean.
    Maybe Startpage will answer the myriad questions users have; they did a moments notice subredditt for one hour to do so and abandoned it immediately, no answers.

    Long time trusted employees quit after the sale. Original redditt:

    I you’re using a good blocker/anti-tracker, there really shouldn’t be much difference now from before. Try a system level approach filtering all web requests, not just browser requests, such as AdGuard for windows, mac, etc. instead of browser add ons. forum, more info here:

    “Tech” is going to continue harvesting and selling your data, get used to it and beat them at their own game with good blockers, VPN’s, non-IPS DNS, secure email, etc. Problem is sorting through the BS to find apps that work as claimed; there aren’t many and few are free.

    If your data can be taken, trust no longer applies so nothing prevents you from trying to stop it. :)

  17. Darren said on November 17, 2019 at 2:10 am

    This is good info and why I visit ghacks.

    Regarding Qwant – how do you add it to available search engines in Firefox without having to install their official addon? It apparently changes your home page on install without asking if it may. Pretty crappy behavior from a privacy minded search engine.

    1. ShintoPlasm said on November 17, 2019 at 8:59 am

      Click on the ‘three dots’ in the URL bar when you visit Qwant. In the little list that pops up you’ll see a green ‘+’ which will allow you to add Qwant to Firefox’s list of available of search engines.

      1. Martin said on April 24, 2020 at 7:15 pm

        It asked me when I installed it to try it out.

        IT asked me do I want the extension to change my default search provider. Might be FF 75 though depending on which version you have.

      2. Darren said on November 17, 2019 at 10:53 am

        Great instructions. Much appreciated!

  18. owl said on November 17, 2019 at 12:25 am

    Startpage Acquired by System1, Privacy One Group – Still Safe? |
    The table of contents:
    #1. Who owns Startpage now?
    #2. When “privacy tools” don’t respect your privacy
    #3. What is System1 and the “Privacy One Group”?
    #4. Board member changes at Surfboard Holding BV
    #5. Can Startpage, System1, and the “Privacy One Group” be trusted with your privacy?
    Final thoughts:
    Startpage’s About us page still warns users about the dangers of data collection and how this gives data collectors the ability to “virtually own you.” Problem is, the new board members and owners of Startpage are literally in the business of gathering “as much data as possible.”

    1. owl said on November 18, 2019 at 2:56 am

      In reference to URL, there was a superfluous. I’m sorry.

      The correct is as follows

  19. Mahat Macoat. said on November 17, 2019 at 12:04 am

    This article should be filed under “Ironic Hypocrisy” considering you-know-who sold out to Softonic.

  20. Yuliyas_Wifes_Boyfriend said on November 17, 2019 at 12:02 am

    Startpage used to be very good back in 2014 – 2017; before 2018 reared its ugly head. Since google has become an invasive censorship police and the startpage decided to “modernize” their UI it is a no go for pirates and perverts alike. As a proxy for normal google searches it’s okay.

  21. Mark Anderson said on November 17, 2019 at 12:00 am
    Reply is extremely biased site and shouldn’t be anyone’s go to for good Privacy information. For example, Firefox has had a number of privacy issues in the past but it’s still the only browser they recommend (other than tor). PTIO even has a pretty lengthy page on all the tweaks required to make Firefox privacy friendly. I doubt most normal people will want to dig that deep.

    They pretend to ask for input on listings and privacy matters but the decisions are all made before and without any debate. They hate ads but they were sure advertising their recent funding campaign on every single subreddit even slightly related to the topic, it was pretty annoying. I could go on and on about these guys as I used to be an active member.

    1. owl said on November 17, 2019 at 2:18 pm

      @Mark Anderson, is extremely biased site and shouldn’t be anyone’s go to for good Privacy information.

      “You are liars, biased. That’s fake news!”
      Reminiscent of Trump’s phrase.

      “ is a fair presence” and respected by most people.
      In other words, you are “extremely biased”.
      Perhaps your claims will be ignored from now on.

      By the way, is not the only one that raises doubts about “Startpage”.
      I feel like the “fireman” of the topic, but are you a stakeholder in “System1, Privacy One Group Ltd”?

  22. Anonee said on November 16, 2019 at 11:47 pm

    So glad I’ve always been a DDG user!

    I have tried Startpage in the past, even as far back as when it was known as ixquick or something like that, but I’ve just never liked Startpage.
    It never seemed more private than DDG, has always (and still) lacks in features, and the search results themselves always suck for some reason (even though they claim to grab the results from Google).

    More recently, I’ve been using Qwant too since it’s based out of Europe (France) and is on par with DDG but seems to have better search results!
    Gonna keep comparing the 2 to decide which I like best but regardless of which one I pick, DDG and Qwant are the only ones I’ll use now.

  23. beergas said on November 16, 2019 at 8:47 pm

    Looked at Qwant. Says only European search engine. Staying w/ DDG. Purge Startpage.

    1. Yuliyas_Wifes_Boyfriend said on November 17, 2019 at 12:03 am

      Qwant does not proxy image searches, makes hits to every serever, that’s a no go, sir.

      1. name said on November 19, 2019 at 11:59 am

        Who does proxy images searches then?

  24. Anonymous said on November 16, 2019 at 8:33 pm

    All search engines want to grow up and become Google. Ohhh, you think they give you free services in 2019 out of the goodness of their heart. They want to get more users, grow and then profit.

  25. said on November 16, 2019 at 7:45 pm

    Thanks Martin,
    For the heads up.
    What a terrible disappointment that commerce has killed free news gathering here as well.
    Let’s wait with a final verdict but in the meantime I will go back to the search engine (As a default and sometimes I will use Searx, Qwant & outhers)

  26. NopNop said on November 16, 2019 at 7:35 pm

    There’s a thread on reddit about this. you can read the rest here

      1. Rush said on November 17, 2019 at 4:11 pm


        Privacy One Group, which is a division of System1, a “data science” company that specializes in targeted advertising.

      2. John Fenderson said on November 18, 2019 at 3:16 pm

        The letter describes system1 as “a consumer internet company with a lot of search engine experience.”

        That description is so deceptive that even if I weren’t already suspicious of the deal, it alone would have raised serious alarm bells.

  27. ping pong playa said on November 16, 2019 at 6:53 pm

    For you DDG users it allows for custom url parameters, these are mine.

  28. Martin P. said on November 16, 2019 at 6:10 pm

    « the relationship between the two groups started in January 2019 »

    This one fact is more than enough for me to have become very suspicious about

    I’ve been using other privacy respecting search engines than as soon as I found out about their « new partnership ».

  29. jean said on November 16, 2019 at 5:47 pm

    on there is still startpage

  30. Crambie said on November 16, 2019 at 5:32 pm

    It could be nothing if they are truly separate entities but in that case Startpage need to explain exactly what’s going on and why they should still be trusted. It has been my go to search, far better results than DDG (unsurprisingly as it uses google). Searx is good but often a bit flaky. Qwant’s not bad either.

  31. Peterc said on November 16, 2019 at 4:59 pm

    Thanks for the warning, Martin. It looks like System1 Group PLC is registered in the loosely regulated AIM submarket of the London Stock Exchange and that it does indeed focus on advertising. It has a marketing research division (System1 Research) and an advertising agency (System1 Agency). I think users are justified in asking why, as a for-profit advertising concern, it acquired an undisclosed stake in a search engine that ostensibly doesn’t profile and tracks its users. I’d be interested in hearing System1’s explanation for the acquisition … bearing in mind that, according to System1’s own website copy, “the best storytellers rule the world.” ;-)

    PS: This may seem a little off-topic at first blush, but I think it’s related. If you use a VPN service, do you know who actually owns it? In cases where ownership is by anonymous, unregistered, bearer share certificates — and I know of one prominent example — it’s impossible for ordinary users to find out. And given that a VPN service can’t be independently audited 24/7/365, knowing who the owners are is kind of important in deciding how much you should trust it. If it’s owned by a group of ethical individuals who are solely in it for the subscription revenue, maybe you can trust that it will keep its promises. If it’s owned by a government or private intelligence service, maybe not so much.

  32. owl said on November 16, 2019 at 4:43 pm
    Reply | Privacy Respecting Search Engines
    Russian-made Yandex, popular with bloggers in the Eurasian continent, is not recommended by
    This ranking is interesting.

    I am stick to DuckDuckGo.

    1. owl said on November 16, 2019 at 11:53 pm

      Correct the part of the sentence:
      Before correction: This ranking is interesting.
      After correction: This list is interesting.

      1. Blith Bobcock said on December 15, 2020 at 3:06 pm

        Correct THIS part of the sentence.

        And “This ranking is interesting” and “This list is interesting” belong in quotation marks

        Pedants are always sloppy, and control freaks are always incompetent.

    2. owl said on November 16, 2019 at 4:52 pm

      5. Web search engines
      Note: Few #extensions exist to protect user privacy on search engines.

      Search engines
      Search engines index the content of web pages by running an algorithm on a web crawler.
      ● Baidu
      ● Bing
      ● Google Search
      ● Mojeek
      ● Yahoo! Search
      ● Yandex Search

      Metasearch engine
      Metasearch engines use another search engine’s data to produce its own results from the Internet.
      ● Disconnect Search (by • Uses Bing, Yahoo… results)
      ● DuckDuckGo (uses its own crawler + Bing, Yahoo, Yandex, Wikipedia… results, on Amazon servers (AWS) • Review at an 8ch site archive • To search without JS, choose the html or lite version)
      ● Ecosia (uses Bing results)
      ● Oscobo
      ● Qwant (uses its own crawler but is partner with Microsoft for Bing results, Bing Ads and Microsoft Azure • Its lite version)
      ● Startpage (uses Google results • No IP logging, no cookie, proxy available…)
      ● Swisscows (uses its own crawler + Bing results with enabled parental filter)
      ● YaCy (A peer-to-peer search engine)

      If you are a web developer, use your own metasearch engine yourself ^^
      ● SearX (uses many search engines • Source code in Python • Author: Adam Tauber, @Searx_engine • Searx instances)
      ● Googol (uses Google results • Source code in PHP • Author: Bronco)
      ● MetaGer (uses Yahoo… results • Source code in PHP)

  33. Emil said on November 16, 2019 at 4:29 pm

    Another acquisition by freshly printed fantasy money, seems to be a contemporary thing. New alternatives will surely be sprouting up.

  34. Peter said on November 16, 2019 at 2:00 pm

    Startpage has also startmail. I have an account there, and I am worried about this step.
    I can only ask the support-team about their future plans, but how do I know that I can trust the answer I will get?


    The owner of startpage changed.
    I would like to know if that will affect your statements and views about privacy in the future.
    System1 knows a lot of marketing and gathering information about people.
    This seems contradictory of what startpage and startmail stands for.

    I am worried about this step, and I am considering leaving startmail as my e-mail provider.

    Kind regards,



    1. Liz McIntyre said on November 16, 2019 at 5:58 pm

      Hi Peter. I resigned from Startpage (and Startmail) October 1, right after the sale/investment announcement was finally posted. It was important to me this was public information before I left.

      That said…My understanding is that Startmail was *not* sold and did not get a major new investor. Please let me know if Startpage/Startmail says something else. You may find some more information on this at this reddit privacy thread:

      I still have and use my personal Startmail account. If something changes, I’ll try to let everyone know.

      Liz McIntyre

      1. Peter said on November 19, 2019 at 4:16 pm

        @Liz McIntyre
        Today I got this reply:

        Dear Peter,

        There has been no change with shareholders of StartMail and ownership has been the same since inception.

        Startpage, has new investor and we wrote about this on our blog when we understood that some users wanted to know more about the investment. You can find some information about the investment in this Support article –

        For both companies, delivering privacy-centric tools remains our top focus and our management/founders continue to have important stakes in long term planning and day-to-day operations.

        Please let us know if there’s anything else we can help with.

        Best regards,

      2. Liz McIntyre said on November 21, 2019 at 6:40 pm

        Thanks for sharing that, Peter! Glad to hear the ownership hasn’t changed.

        We hope to be asking ALL privacy service some basic questions so no one is blindsided again. See:

      3. stefann said on November 18, 2019 at 1:34 am

        @Liz McIntyre :

        I blocked both on my devices. I don’t trust advertising corporations.

      4. Peter said on November 17, 2019 at 9:12 pm

        Thanks, Liz, for your explanation.
        I did not receive an answer yet, but I will keep you informed.

      5. Simon said on November 17, 2019 at 7:33 pm

        Hi Liz, thank you for keeping us up-to-date with the information on various sites about this.

        Could you also say, if possible, if Dr. Katherine Albrecht and a few others who are associated with, and at times promoted, (I think one is a privacy conscious lady like yourself from the Netherlands), are still associated with, or have they dis-associated themselves from too?

        I have noticed that Dr. Albrecht’s Twitter account has stopped re-tweeting’s messages from September 30th.


      6. Liz McIntyre said on November 19, 2019 at 12:02 am

        Hi Simon. Katherine retired a few years ago over health issues she made very public. Friends kept her Twitter account active in hopes she might return to activism. (mostly retweets about privacy) We don’t think that will happen, but we’ll keep hoping. Ancilla left, too.

      7. Simon said on November 19, 2019 at 12:00 pm

        Hi Liz, thank you for the reply. I knew that Dr. Albrecht had her health issues, but I had not realized that she had retired, or that Ancilla had left the company either.

        It looks like has lost three great privacy advocates to advise them.

        In light of what has happened in the past few weeks Liz, could you recommend a privacy search engine to use, or give an indication of what search engine for privacy that you now use, for your followers to use also?

        Many thanks.

      8. Liz McIntyre said on November 21, 2019 at 6:42 pm

        Hi Simon. Everyone needs to decide what the best privacy services are for themselves. That said, I am working on a project that should help.

        We plan to ask ALL privacy services some basic questions about their ownership and data processing so consumers can make informed choices — and not be blindsided. See:

      9. vip said on November 19, 2019 at 8:10 am

        Didn’t I hear her on Coast-to-Coast AM a lot more recently than “a few years ago?”

      10. Liz McIntyre said on November 22, 2019 at 6:30 pm

        That might have been a re-run. I’ve also been interviewed on the show in the last few years. George always asks about Katherine, and I provide an update. Maybe one of those.

      11. vip said on November 24, 2019 at 5:11 am

        Got it. Thanks.

  35. Malte said on November 16, 2019 at 1:46 pm

    I’m using DDG for a while and i like it. The search results are getting better and the clean look is appealing to me.

  36. kalmly said on November 16, 2019 at 1:30 pm

    Sigh . . . Bad news. I more often search for British historical information than anything else. Other search engines fail me. Startpage does not.

  37. Tom Hawack said on November 16, 2019 at 12:20 pm

    If you start digging into private search engines, I’m sure of nothing.

    An interesting guide,
    Private Search Engines – The Ultimate Guide at

    states for instance, regarding DuckDuckGo :

    “In researching DuckDuckGo, I uncovered some interesting history. The founder of DDG, Gabriel Weinberg, was also behind a social network called Names Database, which collected the real names and addresses of its users. He then sold Names Database (and all the user data) to for “approximately $10 million in cash” in March 2006.”

    All I mean to say is that a user’s confidence is unstable for the least when aiming objectivity between paranoia and blind gullibility : I just don’t know, personally. We all know known inquisitors but are we to be aware of devils masked as saints?

    At this time I use four search engines : searX, Qwant, Startpage and Swisscows. I’m now reconsidering Startpage. Reconsidering does not mean postponing a fast already made decision, it means thinking about it with further documented investigation, if available, which seems not to be applicable given Martin has investigated himself already. Maybe tomorrows?

    I read the article which clearly states the lack of privacy invasion evidence while emphasizing on the fact a company doesn’t reply to related privacy questions, and concludes that it is for the time being anyway, a sufficient reason to stop recommending Startpage. How to disagree with that?

    The problem is not earning one’s life, is it?! The problematic is and always has been disproportionate profit, aka unfair deals. Is my privacy worth a free search engines tracking me? Not in my opinion. Is it a free search engine’s behavior legitimate when adding an add on each search page results’ page as Swisscows does it? IMO, absolutely. Privacy has no price because it is not a good.

  38. notanon said on November 16, 2019 at 11:45 am

    I’ve never used Startpage and now I never will.

    Goolag is my backup (not primary) search engine, due to their algorhythmic manipulation of search results (see Tulsi Gabbard’s lawsuit against Goolag).

    An advertising company in England (the home of thoughtcrime enforcement) is a dealbreaker for me.

    Startpage is probably now majority owned by Five Eyes.

    1. Yolorag said on November 24, 2019 at 5:18 pm

      Just try searching any tech support information for example on Windows on Google. All top results are sponsored links of trashy hardware

  39. Peter said on November 16, 2019 at 11:42 am

    I’ll stick with Qwant. It has long surpassed DDG when in comes to search results and supports the DDG !bangs. I want to like Searx, but it’s search results are pretty rubbish in comparison (to me personally).

  40. justuser said on November 16, 2019 at 11:11 am

    PrivacyToolsIO also remove Startpage now because of that behavior.

    I can recommend SearX

  41. Anonymous said on November 16, 2019 at 10:57 am

    It isn’t free. It is ad-supported, just generic/search based ads if I understand correctly.

  42. Yuliya said on November 16, 2019 at 10:47 am

    I was never a big fan of it, Google censors a lot of their results, it refuses to show anything from TPD, unless you force it to search on that particular domain only via “site:”. This means SP’s results are equally worthless to me.
    Yandex doesn’t care, TPB is among their first couple of results if your search term is found there. Google used to be like this years ago as well. It then became useless once it started to show you with only the most “relevant” results, and trying to interpret “natural language”.

  43. Cinikal said on November 16, 2019 at 10:44 am

    I switched about 2 weeks ago. I will not be using any time soon, even if they reply.

  44. Ed said on November 16, 2019 at 10:16 am

    If you don’t want to be using Google to search, you shouldn’t be using Startpage in the first place, because Startpage uses Google’s search engine. The only benefit of using Startpage is that your Google searches are anonymous; , Startpage pays Google for allowing that to happen. See the ‘Learn more’ link at the bottom of, and ‘Why does Google let Startpage access their search results?’ under the ‘Google’ section at

  45. Tarmin said on November 16, 2019 at 9:21 am

    Another sellout, no shit. You can’t run a search engine for free. That’s a nice pipe dream but the cruel reality always crushes it. I have spoken.

    1. scorpiogreen said on November 17, 2019 at 12:47 am

      No truer words have been spoken. Money talks, bullshit walks…

  46. ZeN said on November 16, 2019 at 9:05 am

    Mmmm very suspicious indeed, thanks for the heads-up Martin.
    DDG is my choice for now.

    1. chesscanoe said on November 16, 2019 at 12:59 pm

      DDG and Privacy Badger Chrome extension are my current choices.

      1. yeeet said on November 17, 2019 at 11:15 am

        if you are using chrome, using ddg instead of google doesnt make a difference anyway

  47. Anonymous said on November 16, 2019 at 9:01 am

    Thanks for the info!

    I repeat my request of you to provide us with just a daily digest of the important tech news that you come by and may interest you readers, specially regarding privacy and security (whether popular and in the news or relatively niche.)

    Examples are this topic, YouTube+ chrome extension being sold, company security gaffes of the day etc.

    Just titles and links would be enough :) Thank you

    1. dustie rose said on November 20, 2019 at 4:00 am

      In reply to this article on “Startpage” search engine. I agree with your assessment, I too, have used it forg years but will no longer. I also use “DuckDukgo,” and “Searx.”
      It is a sad day to hear of a company out of California that claims use of technology as a tool in advertising that claims to protect privacy of neethe consumer. An oxymoron from the lowest kind for a company that is profit oriented without any information to even make such a distorted statement sounding like lawyer talk. thanks for the most reliable information on the most user need to know topics, as always reliable and accurate. I appreciate your contributions as always Martin.

    2. Anon said on November 18, 2019 at 8:33 am

      This site is not about providing daily digest of the important tech news. There are other sites for that, no need to make yet another clone which no one would read.

      1. Anonymous said on November 18, 2019 at 11:05 am

        @Anon I have looked a lot. If you know any, please share with us.

        I don’t want “general tech news” like “Company X adds feature Y.”

        I want stuff that:

        1. are likely to be missing from these general tech news sites because they are “niche” but are important to us ghacks readers. Ars Technica is good with this but not reliable as it fails to mention a lot of “small” things.

        2. probably time-sensitive/need urgent attention, like the security and privacy examples I mentioned.

        For example, about the Startpage issue:

        – I didn’t know except here in the COMMENTS a couple of weeks ago

        – I then searched online but the covering of this was extremely lacking. Even in Hacker News it was buried deep and easy to miss unless you are _constantly_ on top of your readings.

        – Even look at the comments here. A lot of people are saying “Thanks for the warning/heads up”.

        Bottom Line:

        Not everybody can keep up with dozens of different tech sites and subreddits and specific blogs. And news aggregators often miss what we care about here.

        The need is definitely there.

      2. Jody Thornton said on November 19, 2019 at 11:48 am


        I say go Google that info yourself. I like the myriad of information that’s here. Sure there are topics I have no interest in, but I like the Windows Update summaries, new software features and generally the community. You want the opposite of that, and so I can’t agree.

      3. Anonymous said on November 19, 2019 at 3:10 pm

        @Jody Thornton

        Thanks for your input, but:

        First, that’s catch-22. How would I google what I’m not aware of? That’s the point.

        Second and more important: why would I want to replace the current system? By all means, cover the usual things.

        I’m sure Martin comes by so many news items in his research. Just make a note of the ones he feels are important to us and post the list without comment.

        I feel like this is not that much to ask, is it?

        @Martin: Would you like to weigh in?

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