Google appears to be expanding the use of its encrypted search page, automatically redirecting some Chrome users to the HTTPS version of Google search. The company has also expanded the number of Google search tools that work with the encrypted page to include Google Image Search, Google Instant and Google Instant Preview.
Using Google search over SSL means that your search terms are encrypted, so prying eyes can’t see what you’re searching for, nor can they see the results you get back. Google’s efforts to provide an encrypted search page are just one part of a broader move afoot on the web to shift more traffic over to the more secure HTTPS protocol.
Why all the fuss about HTTPS? Well, every time you search Google or log in to Twitter or Facebook over a plain HTTP connection, you expose your data to the world. It’s a bit like writing your username and password on a postcard and dropping it in the mailbox. There is a better way, the secure version of HTTP — HTTPS. That extra “S” in the URL means your connection is secure, and it’s much harder for anyone else to see what you’re doing. Think of the extra “S” as the envelop that keeps prying eyes from looking at your postcards.
Although the HTTPS version of Google does, in Google’s words, “provide you with a more secure and private search experience,” it’s worth noting that it doesn’t stop Google from tracking your search terms and other data.
Google Operating System, which tracks all things Google, dug up a post on the Google Support Forums where a Google employee says that Google is “running an experiment with some percentage of Chrome 14 users where we send them to SSL search.” That means that some Chrome users may find themselves using the HTTPS search page without even realizing they are.
Chrome 14 is still in beta, so in order for this to affect you, you’ll need to be using the beta channel.
Of course even if you aren’t part of Google’s effort to expand Google Search over SSL, doesn’t mean you can’t configure your browser to use the HTTPS search page by default. Firefox fans can just install the HTTPS Everywhere extension. Chrome and Chromium users can simply right-click the URL bar, choose “edit search engines” and then look for the Google entry. Just click edit, add an “s” to the end of the “http” and you’re done. Internet Explorer users can head to the IE add-ons page and create a new search provider using the form.