NSA PRISM Leaks Boost Private Search Engines: StartPage And Ixquick Pass 4 Million Daily Searches

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July 16, 2013 5:46 AM EST

As Edward Snowden continues to expose the connection between Internet companies and NSA surveillance programs like PRISM, the popularity of alternative Internet services continues to boom. IBTimes previously reported on DuckDuckGo, a private search engine that has saw traffic spike to over 3 million daily searches in the days following the original PRISM leaks.

DuckDuckGo isn’t the only site enjoying the newfound success. Two other private search engines, StartPage and Ixquick, both owned by Netherlands-based Surfboard Holding BV, have seen their daily traffic shoot from 2.8 million searches to 4.2 million, and increasing every day.

“We are the world’s first and largest private search engine,” Dr. Katherine Albrecht, a representative of StartPage and Ixquick and consumer privacy expert, told IBTimes. “We did privacy before privacy was cool.”

The difference with StartPage and Ixquick is that they are metasearch engines. When a user enters a search query, it enters these into several other search engines, processes the results and returns them to the user. StartPage just functions with Google, returning Google results with 100 percent privacy, while Ixquick uses others without Google results. Albrecht said they help breakup the hegemony of Google search results and help users discover new corners of the Internet.

Like DuckDuckGo, neither StartPage nor Ixquick records IP addresses, monitors searches or uses cookies. But StartPage and Ixquick go a step further and protect all searches with Secure Sockets Layer, or SSL, encryption. Soon, they will be the first search engines that uses Transport Layer Security (TLS), and even more protective encryption that changes with every search so that if it gets cracked once, the key won’t work again.

StartPage and Ixquick also lets users search using a proxy, which loads the results through their own servers. This keeps users from making direct contact with websites, so not even their ISP can know which websites a user is visiting.

And since StartPage and Ixquick are located outside of the U.S., they do not have to participate in NSA surveillance programs like PRISM, nor are they subject to FISA or NSL requests.

“We never have and never will voluntarily cooperate with spying programs like PRISM,” Albrecht said, noting that they don’t have any user data to submit in the first place.

The company has also seen a sudden spike in users signing up for the beta version of StartMail, StartPage’s forthcoming private email service. The company quickly got more than 40,000 registrants, and closed registration over the weekend.

Have you tried using StartPage, Ixquick, DuckDuckGo or any other private search engines? Let us know in the comments. 

Follow Ryan W. Neal on Twitter

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