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Privacy Q & A
- Why did Ixquick decide to take leap steps in June 2006 and in January 2009?
- Had Ixquick ever data mined its search data for commercial use before 2006?
- What is Ixquick's policy now with regard to IP addresses and the use of ID cookies?
- Why is it so important not to store IP address or User ID cookie?
- It is great Ixquick does not store my IP address, but what about any third parties?
- How does Ixquick make money if it doesn't store or sell my personal data?
- I am getting personalized or localized ads while I am using Ixquick.com. How is this possible?
- How can I be sure Ixquick fulfills its promises?
- What are "cookies" and does Ixquick use any?
- How can Google install a Google cookie in my browser when I never use Google?
- How does Ixquick make use of the limited logfiles it does keep?
- What is the recently added "Ixquick Proxy" service all about?
- How does it work?
- How has the proxy improved Ixquick's position in the search industry?
- What other measures has Ixquick taken to protect my Privacy?
- Can you give another example of just how far into the little details Ixquick has gone to protects its users privacy?
- Does Ixquick support SSL (HTTPS)?
- Where are Ixquick's servers located?
- In the light of the PRISM revelations, some users may wish to avoid connecting to servers in the U.S. How do you do that?
- How can I learn more about the privacy issues with other search engines?
- Why are other search engines not yet following Ixquick's lead?
- Where can I find more background information on these privacy issues?
- What is Ixquick's view for the near future when it comes to search engine privacy?
- What does the US government's mass Internet surveillance program "PRISM" mean for Ixquick?
- How does Ixquick handle search removal requests under Data Protection law in Europe? (The Right to be Forgotten)
Q: Why did Ixquick decide to take leap steps in June 2006 and in January 2009?
Beyond striving to offer our users the best Web search results possible, we also feel strongly about safeguarding their privacy. With other search engines, millions of law abiding citizens world wide expose themselves to serious invasions of privacy while performing innocuous searches across the internet.
We feel the right to privacy is a very important right, worth defending.
These were the principles that guided Ixquick's decision in June 2006 when we started our privacy initiative. Our determination to offer our users the best possible privacy search engine has only increased ever since. Thats why we are pleased we were able to stop recording IP addresses altogether in January 2009.
Q: Had Ixquick ever data mined its search data for commercial use before 2006?
In its history before June 2006, Ixquick had never used IP addresses and Unique ID cookies for anything other than tracking its own statistics and improving our site's performance. Unlike most of our competitors, we are an independent company and unable to combine user data with other services we offer. As such, these records had no commercial value to us. Since June 2006, and especially after January 2009 there is nothing to mine.
Q: What is Ixquick's policy now with regard to IP addresses and the use of ID cookies?
IP addresses: Ixquick does not record the IP addresses of our legitimate users.
Cookies: Ixquick abolished the use of Unique ID cookies as of June 6th, 2006.
Ixquick only uses one anonymous cookie that is used to remember the search preferences you saved for your next visit. For those who prefer a "cookie-free" operation Ixquick offers the URL-generator.
Q: Why is it so important not to store IP address or User ID cookie?
People can either have a static IP address or a dynamic IP address that changes from day to day. If they have a static IP address, one can reconstruct their search history with just that IP address. If they have a dynamic IP address one can reconstruct their search history for today but not for yesterday. The user's ISP, however, can provide the missing link between the various IP addresses. The Unique user ID can also be used to tie the different IP addresses together.
So the IP address is unique to the specific computer or router, but may change from day to day. The User ID is unique for one specific search engine or website.
The combination of the both delivers extensive possibilities to track users' behavior, especially for internet conglomerates with multiple services where the users information can be combined.
Tracking within a site is typically done with the aim of producing usage statistics, while tracking across sites with so-called third party cookies, is typically done by advertising companies to produce anonymous user profiles. These profiles are then used to target advertising (deciding which advertising image to show) based on the user's profile. But advertising companies are just one of many groups that may take an interest in user profiles. Ixquick deletes both the IP address and the User ID cookie. Ixquick does not record IP addresses or use Unique ID cookies.
Q: It is great Ixquick does not store my IP address, but what about any third parties?
Ixquick does not share your personal information with any third party including other search engines and the provider of its sponsored results.
Q: How does Ixquick make money if it doesn't store or sell my personal data?
Ixquick shows a limited amount of relevant sponsored results on the top and the bottom of the results page.
Each time these sponsored results are clicked upon Ixquick receives a minimal fee from the advertiser.
Q: I am getting personalized or localized ads while I am using Ixquick.com. How is this possible?
Whenever you search with Ixquick, your SEARCH is not recorded, your IP ADDRESS is not recorded, your IDENTITY is not recorded, no TRACKING COOKIES are placed on your browser, and our SSL ENCRYPTION ensures that your ISP or hackers can't eavesdrop. You are never seen by any of the search engines we query.
That protection applies 100% to your SEARCHES. However, when you CLICK on a search result, whether you got it from us, Bing, Yahoo, or any other search engine, you LEAVE the search engine that gave you the link and go SOMEWHERE ELSE.
Wherever you go, once you leave Ixquick, you can be seen, recorded, and tracked by the website you are going to, plus by all of its advertising and marketing and tracking partners and affiliates. To avoid this, you can use the Ixquick Proxy which allows you to visit third-party websites THROUGH IXQUICK without anyone, including the website and its partners, seeing you.
To learn more about the Ixquick proxy and how it works, please watch our short instructional video here: Watch the Proxy Video
Q: What are "cookies" and does Ixquick use any?
A cookie is a small piece of data that is sent and saved to your computers' hard drive when visiting a site. Ixquick uses only one cookie called "preferences". This cookie is to remember the search preferences you saved for your next visit. It expires after not visiting Ixquick for 90 days and is anonymous.
Q: How can Google install a Google cookie in my browser when I never use Google?
Q: How does Ixquick make use of the limited logfiles it does keep?
As a privacy search engine we do not log users' IP addresses. Nor do we log the search queries itself. But in order to offer our users the best product possible we do keep data on performance (speed) for maintenance purposes and general statistics like language or category usage.
Q: What is the recently added "Ixquick Proxy" service all about?
The "Ixquick Proxy" extends the great privacy protections you get from our search engine to cover your browsing activities too. Our proxy lets you browse third-party websites safely and anonymously, without passing on any private, personally identifiable information. It means you can now surf the web as anonymously as you can search with Ixquick.
Q: How does it work?
The proxy allows you to view third-party web pages loaded through Ixquick's servers. Details on how it works can be found on the "Ixquick Proxy Explained" page.
Yes, the proxy will work fine, although some messages will not appear anymore.
Q: How has the proxy improved Ixquick's position in the search industry?
Ixquick leads the search industry on privacy issues, and we are always looking for innovative ways to protect our users. We were the first and only search engine to provide certified anonymous searching and encrypted (SSL) connections, and now we are the only search engine to offer anonymous proxy browsing. Proxy surfing is just one more way we are earning our reputation as "The World's Most Private Search Engine".
Q: What other measures has Ixquick taken to protect my Privacy?
Contrary to other search engines Ixquick uses the so-called POST method (instead of the GET method) to keep your search terms out of the logs of webmasters of sites that you reach from our results. Search terms tell a lot about what you are thinking, which is why this is a privacy issue. With the POST method Ixquick uses, your search terms are stripped off. This can cause "Web page has expired" messages and prevents from creating shortcuts of results-pages. To create shortcuts you can use the "Bookmark this search" button on the right of the results page. Alternatively you can switch off "Use POST vs GET" completely in the settings.
Q: Can you give another example of just how far into the little details Ixquick has gone to protects its users privacy?
There are quite a few but one is a unique 2-step process we have made to give you access to the popular but privacy-invading social media Facebook and Twitter through their widgets.
Q: Does Ixquick support SSL (HTTPS)?
By default the Ixquick servers have been configured to work with HTTPS. They convert any regular HTTP request to an HTTPS request because it works over secure and encrypted Secure Socket Layer (SSL) connections and thus better protects the privacy of our users. SSL is an encryption protocol that is available in almost all browsers. It establishes a secure connection between your browser and Ixquick's servers. Ixquick recommends using SSL to hide your search terms from anyone who might be monitoring traffic between your browser and Ixquick's servers. (The only drawback of using SSL is a slightly longer processing time.) If you prefer to use HTTP instead, you can change this in Settings by disabling SSL.
Q: Where are Ixquick's servers located?
Ixquick has server clusters in the Netherlands and the United States. Ixquick typically routes European searches to the European servers, American searches to the U.S. servers, and searches from other countries to the closest location. On the rare occasion that there is a problem in one facility, searches are briefly handled by the other facilty.
Q: In the light of the PRISM revelations, some users may wish to avoid connecting to servers in the U.S. How do you do that?
Q: How can I learn more about the privacy issues with other search engines?
Q: Why are other search engines not yet following Ixquick's lead?
After the AOL story some search engines quickly commented they will not give up recording the privacy data of its users.
Ixquick's competitors are generally very large and often publicly owned search engines.Such a large share of these company's valuations is based on their ability to mine data from their users, they cannot afford to give the practice up. Commercial pressures to increase effectiveness of advertising and other commercial services, and the profit opportunities that arise by combining data collected across multiple services will ultimately drive these companies to make even greater impositions on your privacy. Even though lately announcements have been made by Yahoo, Google and MSN to lower data retention time, their true intentions can be questioned. The way in which IP addresses are made anonymous and the ability to continue to combine search data through the use of ID cookies and logins make these promises far less positive than they seem. Read more here.
Q: Where can I find more background information on these privacy issues?
The web sites of various privacy organisations are a great starting point for locating an abundance of background information on this subject. Ixquick recommends:
Q: What is Ixquick's view for the near future when it comes to search engine privacy?
We see an increasing threat to online privacy in general and search engine users' privacy in particular. Ad networks, search engines and government agencies have all stepped up their efforts to exploit private search data. Positive is that consumer awareness is also slowly but surely rising. The resulting political pressure (especially in the EU) may help to force the larger search engines to change their privacy policies for the better. There is only one real solution to this problem: not storing or quickly deleting the data. Only then is data safe from future privacy breaches.The revelations of "Edward Snowden" have lead to a tsunami of news about surveillance programs used by intelligence agencies and increased consumer concerns and awareness on privacy.
In June of 2013, the Washington Post and The Guardian have revealed a US government mass Internet surveillance program code-named 'PRISM'. They report that the NSA and the FBI have been tapping directly into the servers of nine US service providers, including Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Apple, Yahoo, YouTube, AOL and Skype, and began this surveillance program at least seven years ago. (clarifying slides)
These revelations are shaking up an international debate.
Ixquick has always been very outspoken when it comes to protecting people's Privacy and civil liberties. So it won't surprise you that we are a strong opponent of overreaching, unaccountable spy programs like PRISM. In the past, even government surveillance programs that were begun with good intentions have become tools for abuse, for example tracking civil rights and anti-war protesters.
Programs like PRISM undermine our Privacy, disrupt faith in governments, and are a danger to the free Internet.
Ixquick and its sister search engine StartPage have in their 14-year history never provided a single byte of user data to the US government, or any other government or agency. Not under PRISM, nor under any other program in the US, nor under any program anywhere in the world.
Here's how we are different:
- Ixquick does not store any user data. We make this perfectly clear to everyone, including any governmental agencies. We do not record the IP addresses of our users and we don't use tracking cookies, so there is literally no data about you on our servers to access. Since we don't even know who our customers are, we can't share anything with Big Brother. In fact, we've never gotten even a single request from a governmental authority to supply user data in the fourteen years we've been in business.
- Ixquick uses encryption (HTTPS) by default. Encryption prevents snooping. Your searches are encrypted, so others can't "tap" the Internet connection to snoop what you're searching for. This combination of not storing data together with using strong encryption for the connections is key in protecting your Privacy.
- Our company is based in The Netherlands, Europe. US jurisdiction does not apply to us, at least not directly. Any request or demand from ANY government (including the US) to deliver user data, will be thoroughly checked by our lawyers, and we will not comply unless the law which actually applies to us would undeniably require it from us. And even in that hypothetical situation, we refer to our first point; we don't even have any user data to give. We will never cooperate with voluntary spying programs like PRISM.
- Ixquick cannot be forced to start spying. Given the strong protection of the Right to Privacy in Europe, European governments cannot just start forcing service providers like us to implement a blanket spying program on their users. And if that ever changed, we would fight this to the end.