INTERNET SEARCH ENGINE GIANT Google has started encrypting its search data to protect users from surveillance by state intelligence outfits like the US National Security Agency (NSA) as well as hackers.
Google said that the PRISM revelations last year prompted it to rethink its privacy methods, so it has started encrypting search data using the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocol.
The Washington Post reported the change, and a Google spokesman confirmed the news and sent The INQUIRER a statement saying, "The revelations of this past summer underscored our need to strengthen our networks. Among the many improvements we've made in recent months is to encrypt Google Search by default around the world.
"This builds on our work over the past few years to increase the number of our services that are encrypted by default and encourage the industry to adopt stronger security standards."
The PRISM scandal broke last June when NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked documents to the press showing that the NSA is siphoning vast amounts of user data from many technology companies including Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook and Twitter.
Google did offer users the option to encrypt their search data previously, but the feature will now be turned on by default. Google said that SSL encryption of search terms and results will help protect its customers, but warned that it is not completely secure.
Its SSL support page explains, "Google Search uses SSL to encrypt the connection between your computer and Google to help prevent intermediary parties, like internet cafes, ISPs and WiFi hotspots, from intercepting or interfering with your search activities.
"While SSL helps protect your search results, which may include personal information from other Google services, it does not provide complete security against all potential risks (such as viruses and malware). When searching over SSL, it is still good to keep online safety best practices in mind." µ