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relist StartPage in Search Engines #1592

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danarel commented Dec 17, 2019

Resolves: #1562

This is still a topic in discussion, but this pull request would complete the relisting of StartPage should we choose to do so.

@danarel danarel requested a review from privacytoolsIO/editorial as a code owner Dec 17, 2019
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Deploy preview for privacytools-io ready!

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Mikaela left a comment

The PR looks good to me, however as I am still indifferent about the StartPage issue, I am not giving my approval and intent to keep commenting.

Behind StartPage is a European company that has been obsessive about privacy since 2006.

This seems a bit strange description to me.

@Mikaela Mikaela requested a review from privacytoolsIO/editorial Dec 18, 2019
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danarel commented Dec 18, 2019

That sentence was copied from the previous description before de-listing.

@danarel danarel requested a review from JonahAragon Dec 18, 2019
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I think, personally, Startpage (unlike some other companies) has been very forthcoming with the privacy community. Their response adds clarity to the situation and they are obviously now keeping track of this issue very closely.

I dislike how this information was not communicated from the start, but ever since I have had no trouble communicating with them regarding these issues. I would probably be fine with relisting them as a search engine provider at this time.

#1562 (comment)

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LizMcIntyre commented Jan 10, 2020

Dan is right that the wording "Behind StartPage is a European company that has been obsessive about privacy since 2006" is very old. I agree with Mikaela that it's "strange" since we know Startpage is now majority owned by U.S. company System1.

For the sake of transparency, I believe the wording should be changed so consumers don't mistakenly believe Startpage is subject only to EU privacy laws. (It's a gray area, I'd say.) This matters A LOT to some people, and PTIO doesn't want to lose trust.

It's wise that you've gone with Dan Arel's earlier warning label recommendation for Startpage over ownership. I agree that consumers should be informed that Startpage (via the holding company) is now majority owned by System1 and that System1 is involved in day-to-day processing of search data. (See the small print in that diagram that notes user personal information is fuzzed).

I recommend sharing a link to System1 instead of or in addition to the Startpage explanation now linked so consumers can evaluate System1 ownership themselves.The current link only refers to System1 as "a consumer internet company with a lot of search engine experience." Some consumers could feel misled when they find out that System1 is actually a pay-per-click behavioral advertising company.

I'm just seeing this github action now and apologize for the late input. It might be a good idea to post proposed new listings or delistings in the regular PTIO community area and at r/privacytoolsio so more community participants can see them and provide input in a timely manner. I know some community members avoid using github now that it's owned by Microsoft.

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LizMcIntyre commented Jan 15, 2020

@Mikaela was that conflict of interest label for me? No problem, if so. I used to work with Startpage, but resigned Oct. 1. I have always made that very clear in my bios and if anyone asks me.

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JonahAragon commented Jan 15, 2020

This is still a complicated issue — I don't think we've reached any agreement.

was that conflict of interest label for me?

Just a misunderstanding :)

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Mikaela commented Jan 15, 2020

@Mikaela was that conflict of interest label for me? No problem, if so. I used to work with Startpage, but resigned Oct. 1. I have always made that very clear in my bios and if anyone asks me.

No, we have a team member whom I cannot name and whom I hope will come up who has been offered a job by StartPage and we are having a bit of disagreement within the team on how to handle that.

In my opinion the person should tell about it by themselves as I fear it could sway people close to them in the team into accepting StartPage getting relisted in fear of making them lose the opportunity thus making this a conflict of interest and I see a potential conflict of interest even if the team swore to not care about their employment.


Hi @JonahAragon, nice to see you, could you look into these sometime?

Good night, it's a bit over 01 am for me.

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blacklight447-ptio commented Jan 16, 2020

Anyway, i say we do not re add startpage, but we should keep an eye on them, they broke trust, causing them to be removed, quickly coming up with answers after that trust was broken doesn't make on immediately trusted again, the damage has already been done. However, being delisted does not mean that the trust cannot be restored, see matrix/riot as example, which got relisted after a significant amount of time by hard work.

We should keep an eye on startpage, for when it becomes better, or in another case, worse. If startpage can keep its independence for a long period without any actual changes, then i would be more willing to give in my vote, but for now, i vote to not re list them, and keep a close eye on the for any changes in the situation.

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LizMcIntyre commented Jan 16, 2020

Hi @blacklight447-ptio . There may be another Startpage trust issue here if someone on the PTIO team was hired/contracted or offered the possibility of work by Startpage/System1.

I received a response to my post above regarding the conflict of interest label Mikaela posted, but that has been marked as off-topic so you have to sign in to see it. Some was off topic, but the part about a conflict of interest may not be. Here is that now hidden response:

Mikaela Jan 15, 2020 Member

...we have a team member whom I cannot name and whom I hope will come up who has been offered a job by StartPage and we are having a bit of disagreement within the team on how to handle that.

In my opinion the person should tell about it by themselves as I fear it could sway people close to them in the team into accepting StartPage getting relisted in fear of making them lose the opportunity thus making this a conflict of interest and I see a potential conflict of interest even if the team swore to not care about their employment.

I agree with @Mikaela that any connection with Startpage/System1 or any related entities should be disclosed, including possible future connections that have been discussed or contemplated.

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LizMcIntyre commented Jan 20, 2020

Could someone on the PTIO team here detail the conflict of interest and how it arose? The person involved hasn't stepped up to explain. Thanks.

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blacklight447-ptio commented Jan 21, 2020

@LizMcIntyre hey there!

So the person who is offered a job prefers to not come out public with it just yet, as the its not even clear whether he/she is taking the job at all. As a privacy team we respect that wish. However i do understand the concern.

The is the first time one of us got offered a job like this will being part of ptio, so we are still discussing how we are dealing with it. In any case i can assure you that we won't let this affect the decision from ptio on this( or any other) subject ( this is actually a good example of why all editorial decisions are made in public, and no single person can add or remove things to the site: you would have to corrupt the whole team, and also sneak it past the community.)

When the contract is signed or declined, im pretty sure the person would feel glad to explain the situation further.

EDIT: forget to answer the first question:

It arose then when it initially was discussed with the team, on member misunderstood the situation and assumed that there immediately was a conflict of interest, which wasn't/isn't determined yet, so thats why the label was first added, and later removed.
If we think that it is a conflict after finishing the discussion, we will re add the label :)

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LizMcIntyre commented Jan 21, 2020

@LizMcIntyre hey there!

Hi @blacklight447-ptio ! Thanks for the additional information.

So the person who is offered a job prefers to not come out public with it just yet, as the its not even clear whether he/she is taking the job at all. As a privacy team we respect that wish. However i do understand the concern.

I understand. This is a very awkward situation.

Note that a conflict of interest (in fact or appearance) can exist even if the person isn't sure he or she will accept the offer. (Former auditor here!)

The is the first time one of us got offered a job like this will being part of ptio, so we are still discussing how we are dealing with it. In any case i can assure you that we won't let this affect the decision from ptio on this( or any other) subject ( this is actually a good example of why all editorial decisions are made in public, and no single person can add or remove things to the site: you would have to corrupt the whole team, and also sneak it past the community.)

I believe in the good intentions and value of the community, Blacklight. @Mikaela speaking out is evidence of this, and the Team should thank her for it.

When the contract is signed or declined, im pretty sure the person would feel glad to explain the situation further.

Waiting to make disclosures could erode trust. There's already some buzz about this situation. If a conflict of interest exists, PTIO should be transparent about it.

The Startpage relisting thread probably isn't the best place for an extended discussion. Let's bring this situation to the PTIO Forum so the community can offer input.

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danarel commented Jan 22, 2020

Alright, I want to address the comments on this pull request.

I am going to give a lot of detail here in the hopes of clarifying this.

When the System1 investment into Startpage went down and the CEO contacted both Jonah and I to help answer the questions the privacy community had. Through those discussions and subsequent emails about how Startpage could have better handled the situation and why the privacy community was so alarmed, it was revealed that my professional background is in marketing and communications. Coupled with my experience and knowledge in the privacy community, I was offered a meeting w/ some of the Startpage team.

That meeting led to them offering me a contract to do 2 things.

  1. To write a handful of blog posts for their blog related to their search engine, but also to privacy in general. This is something I already do professionally as a columnist, blogger, and author. Guest blogging is nothing new to me.

  2. To meet with their team as a consultant and share my marketing/communications/privacy related experience with them.

As a professional marketer and writer, this is what I do. I will not be a Startpage employee or on their payroll.

That's it. Any compensation being given to me will be for these services, which are part of my professional expertise.

The moment I got off the call with Startpage, I alerted the PrivacyTools team about the potential offer and that I believed this could cause a conflict of interest and since this has not happened to any other member, I wanted to make them aware so we could decide how to best handle the potential conflict. Did that mean I would have to leave the team? I was not sure, but I was willing to do so if asked. The integrity of the site is important to me, regardless of my status as a team member. While we are still discussing it now, we all agree some guidelines should be put in place. I asked that the team not go public until we had internal discussions and that I was sure I was even going to accept or decline the offer.

When it comes to this pull request to relist Startpage, it should be noted that:

  1. It is a PR in response to an issue opened by another team member who agreed that Startpage should be relisted based on the answers we got from those questions. The PR cannot be pushed live by me without multiple team member approval. This ensures that even if I had not notified the team of the pending contract, that I could not just re-list a service on my own. Not only would I have to convince them it was the right thing to do, but also the community. This is one of the great features of PrivacyTools.

  2. The issue and PR predates the meeting I had with Startpage and I only created the PR to satisfy the issue, as you have seen done many times before on our Github.

Startpage has not asked me to relist their service even though I am sure they would love to be. What service wouldn't want to be? It's a fantastic resource privacy tools and is well respected by users, organizations, and companies.

I hope this helps clarify things.

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LizMcIntyre commented Jan 23, 2020

Thank you for clarifying @danarel. I agree with you that guidelines should be put in place to ensure PTIO integrity. I recommend taking this discussion to the Forum for community input.

UPDATE: Here is a link to the Privacytools forum discusson.

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