I'm not sure if Startpage intentionally chose Thursday to launch its anonymous Web search service because it was Data Privacy Day, or if that was just happenstance. Nonetheless, the privately held company founded in New York in 1998 and now owned by a Dutch holding company, is offering use of a Startpage proxy that allows users to search and then to click through to resulting Web sites "without being identified, tracked or recorded."
Startpage director of U.S. media relations, Katherine Allbrecht, told Reuters she realized the need for such a service last year after learning that Google was tracking users who searched terms "indicating they had influenza," and then gave that information to the Centers for Disease Control.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt also raised the hackles of privacy advocates last year when he said, in a televised interview, "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place." He cited the U.S. PATRIOT Act and explained that because search engines always keep information on users and because they're subject to the PATRIOT Act, there is always a chance that information could be surrendered to authorities.
Allbrecht says Startpage doesn't keep any information on its users, so it has nothing to turn in if the authorities ask.