Startpage: How to Search Online and Maintain Your Privacy

Protecting your privacy online is a tricky balancing act. There’s a tug-of-war between your need for privacy, and the business’s desire to have you as a valued customer. 

This balancing act is one that Startpage pioneered in 2006. They created a search engine that didn’t track, record, or share your personal data .But, they still provide you with the information you need.

If you choose to check out StartPage, don’t worry, *wink, they won’t know who you are! 

Their motto: We don’t track you. We don’t profile you. Period. 

When you have questions about preserving your customers’ privacy, contact our friends at Romain Berg. As a full-service digital marketing agency, their marketing strategies place ethics and results above hype. 

Data information and privacy in the internet age

Scenario: You want to go out to dinner, and you fancy something French. So, you Google, “where is the best French restaurant.”

Up pops a little search box, saying in a polite, possible-to-ignore way, that “Google wants to know your location.” That’s harmless, right?

Sure it is. In fact, it’s common sense. Google has read your search information request, deduced, not unreasonably, that you want to go to a French restaurant.

Google also guesses that you want to go somewhere nearby. Hence, they need to know where “nearby” is. 

Funnily enough, the day after you have done your Google search, you log into your preferred social media account. Interestingly, the ads that you see are predominantly about French restaurants, French cuisine, or other French results. 

And this, of course, has “nothing to do” with the searches you made yesterday, right? The day before, your Internet account linked to a search for French restaurants, French cuisine, or the like. 

Google has taken your harmless request, along with your known location, and passed this information on to your social media platform. The ads you see are targeted to your perceived and expressed interest in a topic. 

Bazinga! You have experienced a very common example of how search engines use your queries to create a targeted advertising campaign.

Advertising is harmless, so why should it matter if they have my search info?

Advertisers don’t really have a malicious reason to collect your information. They want to sell to you, and they have limited budgets for advertising.

So, they don’t want to waste your time and their money offering you products you don’t want or need. 

A scattergun approach to advertising may work at times. But, anyone who is in selling will tell would-be advertisers to pick their battles wisely, based on available information and what is likely to work. 

Let’s say you have expressed a love of tennis, for example, but are bored by baseball.

Business common sense and basic pragmatism will tell sportsgear vendor to focus their attention on sending you information about tennis. They’ll leave the baseball inquiries out. This is the common belief that if you’re interested, you will buy. 

So why worry, if it’s done for my benefit?

Collecting data on your spending habits, even for “noble” purposes, is still an infringement of your fundamental right to privacy. Think about other searches you may have done, and which searches provide information on you and yours. 

Looking for a particular size in clothing, or a helpline for drug addicts, even a cure for baldness? These are personal, private questions to which you need answers. But, these searches are also recorded as being asked from your IP address.

What about the rest of the picture?

You are now on the web page that came up when you entered your question. While there, you may be asked for information about yourself, such as your email address.

The website is quick to point out that they only use your data for legitimate purposes. 

However, the fact that they say that demonstrates that there are sites which do, and will, send your data off for use by an unauthorized third party.

Is that the worst-case scenario?

We trust the Internet with our personal data, and we may well believe that we take sensible steps to protect that data. We use passwords, or PINs, to log into commercially sensitive sites like our bank accounts. 

We won’t buy products unless they offer a two-step verification process. And, if we are savvy enough, we even encrypt emails before sending.

We have taken all reasonable precautions, so we could never be hacked or fall victim to identity theft, right? 

Thus, we feel a sense of security, which makes us somewhat complacent. But, computer hackers are sophisticated. 

The barriers we erect to protect our privacy are about as effective as the Maginot Line was in protecting the French against invasion in World War II. (The Maginot Line was said to be impregnable, so the Germans simply went around it instead.)

While many websites will say that they don’t use your data for illegitimate purposes, there remains the fact that data hacking, and selling, is a threat to our privacy, our rights, and our personal safety. 

I am never going online again! 

Don’t panic – there are still ways in which you can shop, or browse, without compromising your privacy. Startpage promises that you get the benefits of using powerful search engines while keeping your IP address under wraps. 

Here’s a link to the Startpage flow chart for clarity of process with this service. The flow chart demonstrates how you can get the most of your Internet browsing sessions without worrying about your data being used by unauthorized third parties.  

The Startpage search engine uses a five-step process and encrypted connections to recognize your search phrase or keywords, deliver your search results, and hide your IP address.

What can businesses do?

Your customers need to know they can trust you with their personal information. This is why Startpage can be a powerful factor in safeguarding the data you want to hold close to your chest. 

Working with our friends at Romain Berg is another way to ensure website security you can best reach your customers without making them worried about a possible Big Brother “someone’s watching” situation when that’s a priority for you as an owner. 

Remember: it’s your data. Not Big Data. 

 

 

 

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