Dutch internet search engine claims to offer total privacy

February 3rd, 2009 - 10:14 am ICT by IANS  

Amsterdam, Feb 3 (DPA) A Dutch company says it has developed the world’s first internet search engine that guarantees users’ absolute privacy.Ixquick (www.ixquick.com), established in 1998, is a so-called meta-search engine, which uses the search results of several search engines to provide its own list of results. The search is available in 17 languages.

“Ixquick is the first search engine that does not even store IP addresses temporarily,” said Ixquick CEO Robert Beens.

Most search engines store users’ Internet Provider (IP) addresses on its servers - and leave so-called “cookie” on each of the users’ computers that track his or her search behaviour.

With Ixquick, all IP addresses and anonymised files, the latter of which are used by search engines like Google and Yahoo to optimise its search results, are erased from its servers.

One of its latest features is technology that can instantly differentiate a human using its search engine from a search robot doing the same, according to Beens.

Search robots often perform automated searches on search engines to acquire addresses and privacy details.

A robot can perform tens of thousands of searches per minute, resulting in a substantial slow-down of the server.

In order to avoid search robot abuse, Ixquick previously stored IP addresses for 48 hours, the time needed to trace and block the search robot’s IP addresses.

“But our new technology can recognise and block a search robot instantly,” says Beens.

As a result, Ixquick does not know how many “unique users” it has.

It can only tell how many searches were performed from a certain area (30,000 per day in the Netherlands).

The company also has no information about the surfing behaviour of its users.

However, the Dutch search engine can only guarantee personal privacy concerning internet traffic between someone’s private computer and the Ixquick server.

As soon you as you click on any of the search results provided by the Ixquick website, your privacy is lost.

“All Internet Service Providers (ISP) that you pass while establishing the connection between your home computer and that particular website you found through the Ixquick search engine, will register you passed through them,” says Beens.

“European Union law obligates ISP’s to store this information for up to six months.”

Therefore, he says, Ixquick is currently developing a so-called proxy server.

This idea - already applied by other companies - involves setting up a separate server that will tell all ISP’s you are surfing from Ixquick rather than from your home IP address.

“When you click on a search result provided by Ixquick, all ISP’s that you pass in order to get to that particular website will think you originated from the Ixquick website,” says Beens.

Beens says his company is particularly popular in Germany, where “people are more privacy conscious than in the Netherlands”.

After Ixquick received the first EuroPrivacy Award in July 2008, he says, the number of searches performed in Germany increased by 30 percent. In the United States it went up by 20 percent.

In the Netherlands, where Google dominates around 90 percent of the search market, Ixquick is an intermediate player on the remaining 10 percent of the search engine market.

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