Google is offering a service that protects your searches from third-parties. The service is called secure sockets layer or SSL it provides end-to-end encrypted search between your computer and Google. It is common these days for third parties such as employers and ISPs to intercept your search data, SSL can stop this from happening. SSL is a protocol that not only encrypts search data but can also provide secure Internet communications for services such as e-mail, instant messaging and other data transfers.
- To use Google SSL you simply visit https://encrypted.google.com/ and search through this page in the same way as any other normal Google search.
- When using a search engine a communication channel is opened up between the user’s computer and the search engine. SSL encrypts this channel so it remains private and inaccessible to third parties.
- SSL will also turn off a browser’s referrers (a referrer occurs as an HTTP header field and identifies, from the point of view of an Internet webpage or resource, the address of the webpage). This measure adds an extra layer of privacy by blocking the visited page from knowing where you are visiting from.
- SSL is currently only available for basic Google searches and cannot be used for other search types such as images, news, video etc.
- Google claim that searches with SSL will be slower because it takes longer for a computer to find a secure connection.
- SSL may block third parties from knowing what you searched for but it does not block third parties from knowing what results you clicked on. If you search for ‘robots’, the search for robots will be private but once you click on a search result third parties will be able to see that.
- SSL will also not protect you from Google itself, Google is just as keen to record your data as all the other big Web based companies. On the support page Google states: “Note that SSL search does not reduce the data that Google receives and logs when you search, or change the listing of these terms in your Web History.”
- If your computer is infected with malware or a keylogger, a third party may well still be able to record your search data. SSL does not offer protection against malicious software.
How can I know if I’m on an encrypted connection?
The first thing to check is the URL; it should start https:// and not http://. Another way to tell is a lock should appear in the status bar or address bar depending on the browser you use; for example in Firefox a lock appears in the status bar at the bottom right of the screen.
SSL is definitely a step in the right direction for those concerned with web privacy, something that web and rank takes very seriously. Unfortunately it seems that SSL can be instantly undone by the fact that there is no privacy protection when clicking on a search result. Also image, map, news and video are all popular ways to search but SSL does not cover these formats, Google is however working towards providing SSL search for these search types. It may be by making search data private Google wants to restrict the available search data information in order to further control the world of search. SSL stops undesirable third parties from knowing how you search but it also helps people to improve their organic SEO. If we don’t know how people search we’ll be forced to buy Google advertising space. It is also a concern that Google will continue to record our search data, they don’t want other organisations to get at our data they want to have complete control over it.
For further information visit http://www.google.com/support/websearch/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=173733