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article imageQ&A: Private search creates a safer Internet, accessible for all Special

By Tim Sandle     Feb 19, 2020 in Internet
Organizations and consumers need to keep Internet safety top of their mind year round. One option is to use private Internet search functions, according to Robert Beens of Startpage. He explains how this is technologically possible.
One of themes from 2020's 'Safer Internet Day' was that a safer Internet does not have to be expensive or relegated to cybersecurity people. With private search a safer internet is accessible today for free for anyone.. However, according to a survey conducted by OnlineSchools.com, only 39 percent of U.S. consumers are concerned about the data that their Internet cookies are sharing about their online habits.
One solution to a safer Internet search has been developed by Startpage, located in the Netherlands. Through its “Anonymous View” feature, Startpage provides a proxy privacy feature that allows people to search results and browse websites with complete anonymity.
To learn more about private search functions, Digital Journal spoke with Robert Beens, CEO of Startpage.
Digital Journal: What are the main messages around Safer Internet Day?
Robert Beens: Safer Internet Day aims to empower people, particularly teens and children, to use technology responsibility, respectfully, critically and safely. Beyond just “Safer Internet Day,” we think it is important to educate our users that their data is theirs and is very valuable. In fact it’s making billions of dollars for Big Tech. Privacy is a right, not something to be surrendered to Big Tech who are profiting from people’s privacy. As kids, we’re all taught not to touch stuff that doesn’t belong to us. It’s a good guideline. So why are online companies harvesting our personal data without our consent?
We want to remind people that it’s their data, not big data. We don’t collect or share your personal information. Ever. There’s literally no data about you on our servers. None. We can’t profile you, and we can’t be forced to hand over your data to authorities, simply because we don’t have any data to hand over. A safer internet is about taking easy steps to protect yourself. The first step? Changing your non-private search engine to a more private search engine like Startpage can be done in less than a minute and will have a very positive impact on your privacy.
DJ: How significant are cyber-threats and data privacy issues for the typical Internet user?
Beens: There are significant threats for the typical internet user. Everything you do online is being recorded and stored forever. Noticed those ads that follow you around? They are based on your previous behavior. Search engines cater to who they think you are. This means both your search results and ads are tailored to your profile. This effectively puts you in an ‘echo-chamber.’ A lot of people receive their world view from the information and news that they access online. If they are being targeted and profiled by their search engine their entire world view is up for grabs by anyone willing to pay money to influence them.
At Startpage, we have no idea who or where you are, so you’re never being profiled and receive the exact same non-biased search results as anyone else in the world. Furthermore, we protect you from the more widely publicized threats such as price trackers (that give some people higher prices on products), identity theft and personal data blackmail.
DJ: What are the main concerns that Internet users express?
Beens: A complete ecosystem that is exploiting netizens behavior has turned being online into a privacy nightmare. Search engines are the gatekeepers of the internet. But searches can also reveal a lot about you. People love Startpage because they don't want to be tracked or targeted. They understand how their data is collected by other search engines and are very aware of how damaging a large digital profile can be. They know their digital profile is being sold to advertisers, politicians, insurance companies (and more) to profile and influence them. People want to feel free on the internet. Our search engine offers high quality search results from Google, but without the tracking. Since 2006 we have been focusing on providing you great search results in the best possible privacy.
DJ: What was the idea behind Startpage?
Beens: When doing a legal audit in 2005 to get an idea about liability we found out how much (personal) data we stored. Knowing someone’s searches can be extremely telling. You can learn people’s hopes, fears and fantasies. You could also uncover someone’s medical or financial history. Understanding and realizing the terrible privacy implications of being able to tie all of someone’s searches together, we decided to make a 180 degrees turn. That’s why we started Startpage in 2006. We believe the right to privacy is a very important civil right, worth defending. Our determination to offer our users the best possible privacy search engine has been our passion ever since. You can’t beat Google when it comes to online search. So we’re paying them to use their brilliant search results, but remove all trackers and logs. The result: The world’s best and most private search engine. Only now you can search without ads following you around, recommending products you’ve already bought. And no more data mining by companies with dubious intentions. We want you to dance like nobody’s watching and search like nobody’s watching.
DJ: How did you develop the technology?
Beens: At Startpage we are always looking for the best possible technical solutions to guarantee your privacy. We develop with 'Privacy by design’, where privacy is the starting point and core of our technology, not just an afterthought. We are operating our own servers and are using the latest technologies to ensure optimal security and privacy. We don't store or share any of your personal data. Our data flow diagram and overview showcases how we implemented this.
DJ: How do you ensure the technology remains up-to-date and working?
Beens: We’ve always been the privacy thought leader. We were the first to implement secure HTTPS, TLS and PFS. We are made up of a global team of top-notch engineers who regularly update our technology as well as are focused on innovating new privacy features.
An example of this is our unique 'Anonymous View’ feature; clicking search results means leaving the protection of Startpage.com. This could lead to a barrage of cookies being installed on your device. That’s why we developed the "Anonymous View" feature. With "Anonymous View" you can visit search results in full privacy, and keep on browsing: They’ll never know you were there. You’ll find the feature next to every search result. We want to be the easy alternative. Change your search to a private search engine like Startpage today and you will never look back!
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