Category: Innovative Technologies
The Hague, international city of peace, justice and security is home to the Dutch security cluster, HSD. This cluster remains at the forefront of developments in cybersecurity because of its large and tight-knit community of thought leaders and industry experts. As the homeland of a significant group of privacy advocates, who have a prominent voice in the public debate and an influence on the already strict Dutch and European privacy regulations, the rise of a large cybersecurity cluster in the Netherlands was evident.
Hence, it is no coincidence that the world’s first, and thought-leading, privacy search engine Startpage is Dutch. Startpage doesn’t store any personal data; no IP addresses, no tracking cookies, nothing. The search engine was built with ‘privacy by design’ and ‘privacy by default’ in mind. These principles, combined with a deal that ensures search results of a quality equal to Google’s results is still the most unique feature of Startpage.
In this article, Alex van Eesteren, VP Business Development at Startmail, the private email services created by the same founders as Startpage elaborates on the foundations upon which Startpage was developed. He discusses the benefits of being part of the cybersecurity community in the Netherlands, and why our country is a natural breeding ground for privacy-first businesses.
Startpage was founded in 2006, after some tough discussions among the founders about the data they were storing through their former search engine lxquick.
As a result, the team decided to start over, building Startpage. “Our privacy-first proposition was far ahead of its time. In 2006, there had not yet been many extensive data breaches and the awareness of privacy threats was minimal. So at the start, our primary target group was privacy activists. Often they were lawyers and computer scientists who were aware of the threat of neglectful data policy. Today, however, we see that privacy concerns are penetrating society at a larger scale, and our business is growing. Spikes in search volumes occur every time a new data breach is announced, which results in steady growth on the longer term.” Alex continues.
Looking at trends in the global arena, this head-start may well pay off as people are increasingly aware of how exposed they are and how much highly private information they entrust to Big Tech. And, more importantly, how this enables these parties to manipulate them. Cambridge Analytica just gave us a taste of how data can be abused as an arm of manipulation with far-reaching societal consequences.
Alex: “Getting people to use Startpage is more than a business goal for our team, it’s our mission. It’s about protecting people, giving them a safe haven where they can use the internet without compromising their privacy.
Startpage does not store searches or IP addresses of users, nor any other personal data, making it impossible to trace the data back to individuals.
Although Startpage started out with the interests of private individuals in mind, the team is identifying more and more business and government-related cases for using their solutions.
Similarly, our government organizations should also be aware of the information they share on those platforms and consider using privacy-abiding services like Startpage in stead.” Says Alex.
Startpage, currently a company of 25 professionals, is managed from the HSD Campus. Here, they are surrounded by a vast community of cybersecurity professionals that serves as a magnetic force for thought leaders from all over the world. It is where Alex ran into Phil Zimmerman, the creator of PGP (Pretty Good Privacy): the first widely available program implementing public-key cryptography.
“The collaboration with Phil was essential to get the combination of high-level privacy and usability. User-friendly applications of PGP hadn’t found their way to e-mail services before because it is a technically fairly complicated protocol. Phil and our team have now found solutions to this problem, making Startmail a very private email service, that allows easy encryption for everyone.
Privacy is one of the hottest topics in the tech world these days. The many ways in which Big Tech companies abuse the treasure coves of personal information they have gathered from us are finally starting to backfire.
Interested in joining the cybersecurity ecosystem in greater Rotterdam – The Hague?
Please don’t hesitate to get in touch!