Web searches are usually pretty harmless, but I don’t like the idea that somebody could see the Google search I did for “Goose Juggling” earlier today. Until recently, though, anybody could see what you were searching for on Google because those search results were unencrypted.
Last Friday, Google began rolling out encrypted web search using SSL, which means your searches are encrypted between your computer and Google. When somebody tries “watching” your encrypted search results, they’ll only get data which is essentially useless.
How to use encrypted Google Search
Performing an encrypted search is easy. Simply visit https://www.google.com whenever you want to do a secure search (note the https instead of the standard http).
This feature is still in beta and may not be available internationally yet, but Google has been busy rolling it out to additional countries over the last few days. Please note that encrypted search is not currently available for Google Image search or Google Maps, although those services may be supported in the future.
What encryption means
In order for encryption to be used properly, it’s important to understand what it does. Using encrypted search will not hide your searches from other people on your computer or hide them from your history. Instead, encryption protects your search from being viewed by a third party on the network while it is transmitted between your computer and Google.
Think of it this way: when searching with encrypted search, your search is converted to a code with a unique key that only your computer and Google knows. If somebody without the key tries viewing this data while it is being transferred, it will just come out as jibberish.
Encryption does come with a small price: you may notice that your searches are not quite as fast as the unencrypted version. This is just the nature of encrypting your data, and if you want to keep your searches confidential, it’s a worthwhile price to pay.
Amidst dozens of privacy woes on the internet, it’s good news when a company releases a more secure way of using their service. Think you’ll use Google’s encrypted search over the standard search? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
For more details, check out Google’s SSL search information.