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Google rolls out encrypted Web search as default option

Google earlier this week announced that it will be encrypting Web searches by default.  Writing on the company's official blog, product manager Evelyn Kao described the move as one taken to encourage the industry to adopt stronger security standards.  In a nutshell, the move means that users who initiate a search from www.google.com and who are signed into their Google Account will be automatically and transparently redirected to the encrypted version of the search engine.

Google first rolled out an encrypted search service last year at https://www.google.com as a beta to better protect security-conscious users.  The threat of data snooping is not a far-fetched problem either, given the increasing number of users logging in from Wi-Fi hotspots.  The majority of such wireless access points do not have wireless encrypted enabled, which means that someone with the right tools will be able to snoop on any traffic that is not explicitly protected by encryption methods such as VPN tunnels or SSL.

The benefit for users is obvious here – connecting to the encrypted version of Google will help ensure that search terms stay private.  It is important to note however, that the move does not extend to country-specific domains, such as www.google.com.sg and www.google.com.my. It will also not work if you do not have a Google Account, or are currently logged out. Of course, manually typing in "https://" will also bring you to the encrypted version of Google Search.

Kao noted that websites that receive visitors from its encrypted searches will not be able to obtain information about individual queries.  Instead, these sites will receive an aggregated list of the top 1,000 search queries that drove traffic to their site for each of the past 30 days through Google Webmaster Tools.  Clicking on an ad appearing in a Google search results page however, will "continue to send the relevant query over the network to enable advertisers to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns and to improve the ads and offers they present to you."

Webmasters and professionals involved in the field of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) have quickly expressed their concerns that encrypted web search effectively obfuscates incoming keywords.  Moreover, the fact that Google's own customers will continue to enjoy unfretted access to the data has further raised the ire of many.  If SEO is a topic that is right up your alley, you may want to read Danny Sullivan very detailed post about its full repercussions here.

Source: Google blog


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