Browser Add-on Startpage Search Engine launches Privacy Protection extension


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Aug 17, 2014
" Startpage Privacy Protection is a new browser extension by the privacy-focused search engine Startpage with two main purposes: reveal privacy scores of visited websites and give users more privacy-related controls to reduce or eliminate tracking.

Startpage released the extension for Firefox and Chrome officially, but it installs in compatible browsers, e.g. Microsoft Edge, Vivaldi, Opera or Brave, as well without issues.

Note: The installation of the extension changes the default search engine of the browser to Startpage Search. There is no way to block the change from happening. "

Once installed, you may start interacting with the extension by activating its icon. On Chrome and Chromium-based browsers, you may need to click on the general extension icon in the main toolbar of the browser and select the pin option to pin the Startpage extension icon to the toolbar for better visibility. The first click opens a wizard that walks you through main program features.

Startpage Privacy Protection displays a privacy score for each site you visit. It ranges from 1 to 5, with 5 being the best and 1 being the worst. Blocked trackers and cookies are revealed in the interface, and a click on the manage link opens a detailed view of them in the extension's interface.

startpage manage trackers
Each tracker has three options: block all, block only cookies, allow all. It is easy enough to switch between the options, e.g., when a site's functionality is reduced by the blocking, or when there are false positives on a site. Most trackers are blocked outright by Startpage Privacy Protection, some have only their cookies blocked.

The main interface has a switch to turn off the main functionality. A click on the settings button displays several options, which are all enabled by default:
  • Global Privacy Control -- Sends Global Privacy Control and Do Not Track signals to all websites.
  • Hyperlink auditing -- blocks link tracking using the technology.
  • Prefetching -- blocks the browser from prefetching data.
The next section, called allowlist, gives you an option to add sites to the exclusion list. Sites added there won't have their trackers and cookies blocked by the extension. Just add the main domain name and the extension will do the rest.

privacy protections settings

The privacy score of allowed sites is still computed and displayed by the extension, but no blocking is taking place in that case.

The last section lists all known trackers that Startpage's extension knows about in the current version. Here you may change defaults for each individual tracker.
Closing Words

Startpage Privacy Protection blocks trackers and cookies when it is active. The privacy score may be useful to inexperienced users who never looked into privacy closely before.

The extension has a few limitations. One being that it changes the default search engine to Startpage, something which not all users may want. It is not possible to switch the search engine after installation of the extension, unless the extension is disabled. Startpage Privacy Protection lacks options to add trackers to the list it supports. Lastly, it may not block too many ads on the Internet, as its focus is on trackers.

ForgottenSeer 92963

CD Net - May 2020 said:
Startpage protects users by European Privacy law and offers Anonymous view with its search results. This is a private browsing feature that allows you to explore the web and search results without any tracking. The search engine generates its income from contextual advertising. Each time you perform a search, you may see up to three sponsored search results at the top of the results page.

By disabling javascript on [*.] (chromium based browsers), you won't see the advertisements of Startpage. In Dutch we say "you can look for nails on low tide", meaning nothing is perfect and you can always find something to comment or criticize on, but it is better IMO when you know how a company generates its income (e.g. Brave with an alternative advertising scheme, Opera with is mobile advertising and payment services).

I did a quick check on my bookmarked websites to see which trackers were caught by this extension with Edge tracking protection on Default (Firefox anti-tracking will probably give similar results, since both are based on Disconnect), to see which trackers this extension caught extra. I checked the blocked domains, but they were all listed in my own Kees1958 blocklist. I dare to say that with near 100% certainty EasyPrivacy and/or AG Tracking protection will also catch those trackers caught by this extension. For the average MT-forum member this extension has probably little added value.
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