Startpage Search Engine launches Privacy Protection extension
Startpage Privacy Protection is a new browser extension by the privacy-focused search engine Startpage with two main purposes: reveal privacy scores of visited websites and give users more privacy-related controls to reduce or eliminate tracking.
Note: The installation of the extension changes the default search engine of the browser to Startpage Search. There is no way to block the change from happening.
Once installed, you may start interacting with the extension by activating its icon. On Chrome and Chromium-based browsers, you may need to click on the general extension icon in the main toolbar of the browser and select the pin option to pin the Startpage extension icon to the toolbar for better visibility. The first click opens a wizard that walks you through main program features.
Startpage Privacy Protection displays a privacy score for each site you visit. It ranges from 1 to 5, with 5 being the best and 1 being the worst. Blocked trackers and cookies are revealed in the interface, and a click on the manage link opens a detailed view of them in the extension's interface.
Each tracker has three options: block all, block only cookies, allow all. It is easy enough to switch between the options, e.g., when a site's functionality is reduced by the blocking, or when there are false positives on a site. Most trackers are blocked outright by Startpage Privacy Protection, some have only their cookies blocked.
The main interface has a switch to turn off the main functionality. A click on the settings button displays several options, which are all enabled by default:
- Global Privacy Control -- Sends Global Privacy Control and Do Not Track signals to all websites.
- Hyperlink auditing -- blocks link tracking using the technology.
- Prefetching -- blocks the browser from prefetching data.
The next section, called allowlist, gives you an option to add sites to the exclusion list. Sites added there won't have their trackers and cookies blocked by the extension. Just add the main domain name and the extension will do the rest.
The privacy score of allowed sites is still computed and displayed by the extension, but no blocking is taking place in that case.
The last section lists all known trackers that Startpage's extension knows about in the current version. Here you may change defaults for each individual tracker.
Startpage Privacy Protection blocks trackers and cookies when it is active. The privacy score may be useful to inexperienced users who never looked into privacy closely before.
The extension has a few limitations. One being that it changes the default search engine to Startpage, something which not all users may want. It is not possible to switch the search engine after installation of the extension, unless the extension is disabled. Startpage Privacy Protection lacks options to add trackers to the list it supports. Lastly, it may not block too many ads on the Internet, as its focus is on trackers.
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