Startpage a Money Saver?

Oct 12, 2012 by

startpage logoFor searching the Web, I’ve abandoned using Google directly and adopted Startpage. Why? While I’m uneasy about the trove of personal information Google’s disclosed that its incredibly sophisticated infrastructure routinely collects, I’m really concerned about what Google’s doing that it hasn’t told the world about. Okay, I’ll concede I have a marginally latent paranoid streak. But still. In contrast, Startpage’s business model isn’t based on discovering—and then selling to the highest bidder—your underwear preferences, among other personal tidbits.

“Don’t Be Evil”

Google’s “don’t be evil” informal motto has become laughable everywhere except perhaps in the PowerPoints its public relations team delivers to each other. (See “Google’s Broken Promise: The End of ‘Don’t Be Evil’”) Besides running cars all over the planet with sophisticated cameras documenting—without even a courtesy notice, let alone, gasp, permission—whatever’s happening at that moment everywhere, Google’s incredibly sophisticated and dominant online infrastructure amasses digital mountains of data on Web users, like you. Google knows more—probably a lot more—about you than does your mother, rest assured. In fact, if you have an Internet connection, there’s increasingly little about you that Google doesn’t know. Perhaps I’m old-fashioned, but that troubles me.

Why Google Collects Data

A complete answer to why Google collects data would fill a hefty book, but just to touch on the subject: One of Google’s chief moneymaking businesses is selling online ads (including customized search results). To give one simple example: Just imagine how much more Google can charge for an ad (or search result link) for a Toyota Prius that, instead of being presented randomly or universally to Web users is shown only to people Google knows are environmentally conscious, in the market for a car, and upper middle class. Obviously, the “targeted” ad is many times more valuable than the “dumb” ad.

Targeting or Improved User Experience?

Google claims its collection of data improves users’ web surfing by “personalizing” their online experience. To put it indelicately, that’s a load of PR crap, of course. Google collects data to maximize its revenue, period.

Is Google’s Surveillance Costing You Money?

To the extent Google can present ads to which you may be especially vulnerable and “personalize” search results to direct you not to where you want to go but to where Google (along with its advertisers) in its omniscient wisdom thinks you should go and sic on you sellers of stuff you don’t need, Google might well be costing you money. And the potential for harm of the purposeful, accidental, or criminal disclosure of the personal data search engines collect is huge, as has been demonstrated.

Enter Startpage

For online search, I now use Startpage exclusively. Here’s why:

  • Startpage, and its sister search engine Ixquick, are the only third-party certified search engines in the world that do not record your IP address or track your searches.
  • Startpage abolished the use of Unique ID cookies as of June 6th, 2006. Startpage only uses one anonymous cookie that is used to remember the search preferences you saved for your next visit. For those who prefer a “cookie-free” operation Startpage offers a URL-generator.
  • Startpage does not collect any personal information on its visitors.
  • Startpage’s proxy service lets users browse websites safely and anonymously, without passing on any private, personally identifiable information to the websites they view.

Startpage searches yield Google search results. To test this, try a few experiments by searching the same phrase from both Google and Startpage and compare the results.

Disclosure

Startpage is paying me nothing. I just happen to like it.

Turn Off Google Search “Personalization”

If you trust Google, you can follow its instructions to turn off search personalization, which in theory will cause your search results to be unaffected by the mass of personal data on you in Google’s database. If you appreciate getting search results biased by topics you’ve previously searched or websites you’ve visited or links on which you’ve clicked or your underwear preferences, then don’t turn off personalization.

What Do You Think?

Are you worried by Google’s and other search engine’s data collection activity? Or, like many, have you simply waved the privacy white flag and abandoned the idea of keeping anything about you private? Have you tried Startpage? What do you think of it?

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