Startpage is a privacy-focused search engine, launched in 1998 by the Dutch company Startpage B.V. Startpage uses the Google search API in its backend, so it has the same search quality as Google. However, it only sends search keywords to Google’s servers and Google does not get any other information than that.
Recently Startpage released an open source browser extension (based on GPLv3) for Firefox and Chrome – Startpage Privacy Protection. This extension has two main purposes: to reveal the privacy scores of websites and to give users more privacy-related controls to reduce or eliminate website tracking.
Although the extension is officially available only for Firefox and Chrome, it can also be installed on Chromium-based browsers like Chrome (Firefox: link)｜Chrome: link)).
According to a survey conducted by the research institute in 2020 horrifying-now-what), 87% of the world’s most popular websites are digitally tracked. Blocking these trackers is therefore a very important privacy protection initiative. Startpage Privacy Protection displays a privacy score for each site you visit, ranging from 1 (worst) to 5 (best), and blocked trackers and cookies are also displayed in the interface, with more detailed views available by clicking the “Manage” button.
The full functionality provided by this privacy protection extension includes.
- Set default search to Startpage.com – Ensures that searches are not saved, sold, or used for analysis
- Block trackers and cookies – block advertisers and third parties from placing trackers in search campaigns
- Report site privacy scores – evaluate and calculate privacy scores based on each site’s privacy
- Override social media tracking – replace social media, video and music site tracking defaults with “click-to-activate” options
- Send global privacy control signals – send signals to visited sites about your privacy preferences
- Prevent browser fingerprinting – detects and blocks third-party sites from using special scripts to collect information
The full functionality above should show that the extension has some limitations, the first being that it changes the default search engine to Startpage, which is not the preferred search engine for all users, and to switch the search engine, users will have to disable the extension. Secondly, the extension is focused on blocking trackers and cookies, so it does not block ads.