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Want to Give Internet Snoops the Slip?

Want to Give Internet Snoops the Slip?

By: Liz Mcintyre

Want to Give Internet Snoops the Slip?

Join the movement to privacy friendly services, like and

By Liz McIntyre

Fed up with nosy, big-name Internet services that spy on you and share information with the government? You're not alone. In fact, there's a quiet rebellion underway against companies that snoop on their users, thanks to Edward Snowden.

This is a little known side to the Snowden leaks. While major news outlets focus on government hearings and lawsuits over the legal technicalities of siphoning our personal information, everyday consumers are taking matters into their own hands.

One big step they're taking is switching to more privacy-friendly Internet services. Private search engines and have experienced this move firsthand.

"Consumers are upset that popular search engines spy on them in order to create personal profiles and serve up targeted advertising," said privacy expert and StartPage spokesperson Dr. Katherine Albrecht. On top of that, she added, "Consumers are rightfully outraged that governments are eavesdropping on those services and commandeering access to those databases."

Albrecht shares a graph that shows how Snowden's leaks have had a clear impact on where people choose to do their Internet searching.

As you can see from the graph, these search engines experienced a noticeable surge in traffic in June 2013 (H) when Edward Snowden began leaking details of government Internet snooping programs, like PRISM. What's more striking is the sustained growth that suggests a movement, not just a one-time, knee-jerk reaction. (Graph courtesy of and

"Every time Edward Snowden shares a new revelation about government spying, we get an influx of new users," said Albrecht. "He has promised to reveal more in 2014, and from what we've heard, he's got two more years of content, at least."

With that in mind, and are bracing for continued record growth. In 2013 these search engines saw their traffic numbers double to over 1.25 billion searches for the year. Currently, the company reports more than 5 million searches per day, making them the largest combined anonymous search engines.

Albrecht points out that StartPage and Ixquick are different from other private search engine options because they are based in Europe, where consumer privacy is better protected by law. What's more, US data collection programs like the Patriot Act do not directly apply to them since they are offshore, and Albrecht says they have never cooperated with spying programs like PRISM.

Even if a government agency were to come knocking, there's nothing for anyone to get. The companies cannot turn over data since they don't collect any to begin with.

"Our privacy policy is very simple," Albrecht noted. "We don't collect any information"Nada. Zilch. Zero. No IP addresses are recorded, and no tracking cookies are used. Period."

The company's privacy promises are audited and certified by an independent organization, Europrise, which makes its services very attractive to consumers seeking safer alternatives.

Both and serve up search results in total privacy using the latest SSL and TSL encryption. (Qualsys SSL Labs has given the search engines A+ ratings.) StartPage returns Google results, and Ixquick returns equally private metasearch results from popular search engines (excluding Google). Users have the option to remain completely anonymous by visiting results links via a free proxy.

In fact all StartPage and Ixquick services are completely free to users.

Because of demand for private Internet services, StartPage and Ixquick executives launched a new privacy-friendly email company last summer: While they expected a good response, they were shocked when over 50,000 people signed up to beta test the new service.

"We thought we'd get interest from a few thousand people, but the response was so overwhelming, we were forced to close the beta signup early," said Albrecht.

StartMail is still in beta, but the company plans to roll out paid accounts by invitation later this year. Those interested can register to receive an invitation at

Here is a video preview of the service:

The so called "Snowden Effect" backlash against government surveillance of everyday citizens is clearly becoming more than just the airing of Washington's dirty spy program laundry. Based on the numbers, it seems consumers are taking action by seeking out practical alternatives that help preserve their freedom, liberty, and privacy--and the free marketplace is delivering.


Liz McIntyre is a consumer privacy expert, and with Katherine Albrecht co-authored the book Spychips: How major corporations and government plan to track your every purchase and watch your every move. She has been working with Albrecht to promote privacy-friendly Internet alternatives, including,, and

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