Privacy Alert: Fitbit is now Google, Startpage.com taken over, retains independence

Just a privacy heads-up to notify you privacy-aware folks of the following:

Google has acquired Fitbit

Fitbit is now part of Google, and thus they are now - apart from the vast amounts of personal information they already harvest from you - also in the business of collecting your biometrics data.

I would be concerned by this if I were an owner of a Fitbit wearable. Not only is the collected data gold for insurance and farmaceutical companies, but also wearing such device allows you to be location-tracked pervasively, even when you don’t have your smartphone around.

Hacker News discussions with interesting observations on this move by Google:

Startpage.com is now privacy-eroding ad-tech

The search engine Startpage - which used to be a good alternative to Google Search - has been acquired by System1, an advertisement agency that is not known for its good practices.

I advise anyone using Startpage to switch to a different search engine. Personally I still use DuckDuckGo and quite happy with it.

Hacker News discussion on Startpage takeover:

Other privacy nightmares

Just some small mentions of other tech you may own that will in time destroy our collective privacy and will lead us to an Orwellian dystopic panopticon:

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From the YCombinator News thread regarding StartPage:

“To ensure that our mission and privacy practices do not change, the investment includes covenants that ensure Startpage’s founders in the Netherlands will retain complete control over all privacy-related decisions.”

  • System1 invested in Startpage because they recognize increasing consumer demand for privacy-focused tools, not because they plan to alter Startpage’s core mission in any way.
  • We will never compromise or weaken Startpage’s industry-leading privacy policy.
  • We will not depart from Startpage’s core business model, which has been profitable since 2006. We make money with contextual ads (based solely on your search query) vs. other search engines that make money with behavioral ads (based on your personal profile and browsing history).
  • The purpose of this investment is to allow Startpage to reach more users worldwide and advance our mission of making safe, private search available to everyone.

“I’m a senior engineer at Startpage, and I can personally confirm all of the above. Our system is implemented in such a way that we never store a user’s search query, IP address, or any other personally identifying information, and that will never change. If anyone is interested, I can answer specific questions about technical details.”

Nobody in the thread replied to any of the three comments made by System1 or Startpage. Not a single reply. Yet there was plenty of barely related discussion regarding the outrage over the clickbait headline.

It would appear that System1, which is now a billion dollar publicly listed company (only one billion), has a part if its business that specialising in privacy.

Privacy is one of System1’s values. They have other business too, including MapQuest, for which they claim they will either keep the existing lack of privacy, or perhaps improve upon them (though not likely). Also they can be aggressive in displaying too many ads. But how do you expect to get web services for free? This company makes a loss, for the time being, so you are actually getting free web services at less than the amount they get from ads.

How could it get any better for people? Free web services do not grow on a tree, and if they did not exist then people would complain. Imagine having to pay for every single thing we do online. How about 500 Euros a month in subscriptions? You think I am kidding? i am dead serious. Maybe 1000 for some people. Welcome to the world without advertising, the one promoted by some here.

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@aschrijver Any interest in modifying the title? I use startpage.com because it is the privacy respecting search engine with the best results. It is powered by Google who also provides the ads, which seem to be context-based text ads. As to the parent company System1, as far as I can tell they are like a conglomerate of second-rate but decent sites, and in this case I think their role is actually just to promote startpage.com by advertising it on their other properties. Doesn’t sound evil to me, in fact they seem to be helping get more people to use startpage.com.

Yes sure. Thanks for the background info.