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11.04.19

Startpage, Dogpile, WebCrawler, MetaCrawler and Maybe Many Others Send Data to a Surveillance Company Subsidised by the Goldman Sachs-Connected Court Square Capital Partners

Posted in Google, Microsoft, Search at 3:31 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The money System1 raised for spying comes from investment banks; they’re looking for return on that investment (RoI)

WebCrawler
The search engine I had
used until Google became ‘too
dominant’ in the early 2000s

Summary: The arm of so-called ‘Surveillance Capitalism’ is reaching a lot further than most people care to realise and grab small search engines; their business model is no different than that of Microsoft, Facebook and Google and their real owners are controversial banks

TECHRIGHTS, both as a site and as a growing community, does not focus on Internet businesses or on search. Privacy is not our top/foremost topic. We did, however, write many articles about why Bing (MSN) is bad and why DuckDuckGo (DDG) is a ‘scam’; there’s no privacy there, so it’s false advertising or dishonest marketing. Let’s just clarify that when speaking about the small (niche) search engines we aren’t promoting or endorsing Microsoft/Yahoo/Google/DDG. They’re all bad and we wrote a great deal about those; sadly a lot of people still believe that DDG offers ‘legit’ privacy and some GNU/Linux distros make it the default search engine. I face-palm any time I see this.

Then there’s the issue with browsers. Over the weekend we wrote about why Mozilla/Mozilla Foundation/Mozilla Corporation remains connected to 'Surveillance Capitalism', so we cannot recommend Firefox. Various changes — especially those made in recent years — also weaken its adherence to Software Freedom. Among the “Big Browsers” (that most Web sites fully support), Firefox is probably the least harmful, but it can still be harmful. Not that Chrome/Chromium is better (it’s a lot worse in that regard). Some so-called ‘Linux’ sites currently promote proprietary software of Microsoft because it’s merely based on (i.e. exploits) Chromium codeabase and there’s a new icon/logo (wow! Icon!!). Half a day ago someone wrote to me to say:

OK, did OMGUbuntu intentionally left out Brave as a Chromium based browser on Linux? Brave is FLOSS, the others (except Chromium, which is the base for these browsers) are proprietary.

“And since almost every other Chromium-based web browser is available on Linux (including Chromium, Google Chrome, Vivaldi and Opera) it’s a fairly logical assumption to think Edge will join their ranks.”

https://www.omgubuntu.co.uk/2019/11/microsoft-edge-gets-a-new-logo-still-debating-a-linux-build

And no we don’t need a Microsoft browser on Linux. Especially not a proprietary one. If Microsoft loves Linux, they would release this browser as Free Software, and not close source junk.

“Would Edge on Linux be a positive move?

I think so; choice is good for users. Not everyone is a dyed-in-the-wool FOSS fan fan sworn off anything with a vague whiff of proprietary licensing.”

OMGUbuntu is shilling for proprietary junk? Why is that? Are they paid by Microsoft?

Oh yeah let our internet habits flow through Microsoft…

I seriously don’t understand this attitude, especially one of the biggest Linux user site!

CNET (CBS) also did a puff piece about it, but we don’t want to link to it (some readers alerted us about this and we found it in “Open Source” news even though it’s proprietary). Stephen Shankland wrote the puff piece. He used to cover Mozilla a lot.

Generally speaking, Microsoft has long (well over a decade) used its browser to spy on Internet users; sometimes it was justified as ‘necessity’ in the name of ‘security’ (e.g. detecting if a visited site was a malicious risk). So to one’s browsing privacy there’s the ISP as a risk, the browser maker as a risk, and then there are trackers and search engines. There are some other factors, which are to some degree explored in PrivacytoolsIO. Privacy is becoming a hard thing to get. Even some VPN providers turn out to be scams. Some are surveillance/DPI ‘as a service’…

The people at PrivacytoolsIO recently delisted Startpage. It was due to Startpage’s connection — however thinly-veiled (with Orwellian language) — to System1.

Someone who supports PrivacytoolsIO told me: “Now we need to ask important questions of ALL privacy services to determine who their masters really are and if they are trustworthy. PrivacytoolsIO stickied my request for users to contribute questions we should ask. You can see that thread here.”

To quote the relevant text: “In light of the recent Startpage acquisition, we want to develop a list of questions we can ask every privacy-centric service we recommend. Help us figure out what we should be looking for! :) There is also an ongoing discussion of this topic on our forum.”

“So this is basically the “Real Owner” of Startpage right now (bankers looking for RoI), not some Dutch person or Dutch operations on Dutch soil.”One person asked: “How do you make a profit?”

To which the OP responded: “That is a good “follow the money” question!”

System1′s business model is spying and “Startpage isn’t System1′s only search engine,” one reader told us, calling it “another concern.”

“It has many,” we were told, “based on my research. See this article for example” [from September 19, 2017]

Venice advertising technology firm System1 announced on Monday that it had completed a $270 million financing round led by New York-based Court Square Capital Partners.

The company, which was founded in 2013, was formerly known as OpenMail. It advertises itself as the world’s largest independent marketplace for keyword pay-per-click advertising. The startup plans to accelerate product development and finance hiring in Southern California with its recent infusion of cash.

System1 uses statistical and machine-learning models to group consumers into thousands of audience profiles, which then are used to match those consumers with relevant advertising, said Chuck Ursini, chief executive of the firm, in an email.

[...]

It has about 190 employees, according to its website. System1 purchased search engine InfoSpace for $45 million in cash last year.

The money for Infospace or all the money comes from a few dozen people connected to Citigroup originally, now AlpInvest Partners and Goldman Sachs (sometimes it’s still listed as Citigroup). There are some, but not many, military connections. These people have billions at their disposal. They don’t actually make anything; they just buy companies and then control their direction. They’re like “monetisation” instruments. So this is basically the “Real Owner” of Startpage right now (bankers looking for RoI), not some Dutch person or Dutch operations on Dutch soil. Years ago I criticised them for suspicious expansions in the US (different laws) and what seemed like exploration of Surveillance Capitalism; up to that point I had used them, typically through ixquick, for about half a decade. They had my search query history (I assumed). Can they still be trusted? Do they still keep all this old data? We don’t know, do we? Is it “monetisation” time now?

“Is it “monetisation” time now?”About the firm that was bought in 2016, “InfoSpace’s main metasearch site is Dogpile; its other brands are WebCrawler, and MetaCrawler.” That’s according to Wikipedia. “The company was founded as Infospace in March 1996 by Naveen Jain after he left Microsoft,” says Wikipedia about Blucora in explaining its lineage: “Blucora (formerly Infospace, Inc.) is a provider of Internet-related services, mostly search engines. InfoSpace changed its name to Blucora and NASDAQ symbol from INSP to BCOR on June 7, 2012. This event reflected the company’s change as the owner of two online businesses, after its acquisition of TaxACT in January 2012, and distinguishes the parent company from its search business operating unit, which is called InfoSpace. Blucora’s InfoSpace business provides metasearch and private-label Internet search services for consumers and online search and monetization solutions to a network of more than 100 partners worldwide. InfoSpace’s main metasearch site is Dogpile; its other brands are WebCrawler, and MetaCrawler. Blucora’s TaxACT subsidiary offers online tax preparation services. Founded in 1998 and made by 2nd Story Software, in the 2005 tax season, TaxACT became the first to offer free federal tax software and free e-file to all U.S. taxpayers.”

Notice phrases like “online search and monetization solutions”; a lot of user data goes through these people. They’re bossed by banks.

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