In early June, it was revealed that the NSA was working with a variety of tech companies to access information on foreign targets and Americans. Google and others named in the leak denied ever having provided unfettered access to their servers, but some Americans are not so trusting. Now Google is taking it a bit further.
Search Engine Land reports that Google is now beginning to roll its encrypted secure search feature to more people. Previously, secure search was only available to those who were signed into their Google accounts or those searching from the Chrome omnibox. Now it’s working to make secure search the default for everybody – even those not signed into a Google account.
Google’s latest move is certainly interesting in the context of its own actions against the NSA as well as recent leaks regarding the agency’s activities. For starters, Google has been at the very front of the campaign against the NSA with the search giant filing a lawsuit arguing that it has a First Amendment right to release the number of federal data requests it receives.
Those federal data requests may include requests to see what people are searching for. The leaked PRISM slides from early June revealed that the NSA can collect “notifications of target activity” and “special requests,” both of which may involve searches, from the tech companies that are allegedly involved. If Google supplies encrypted searches to everyone, it may be able to slow down the pace at which the NSA can obtain search information from it.
Of course, it may be all for naught as the NSA was recently revealed to have cracked a wide variety of commonly used Web encryption technologies. One such technology is SSL, and Google happens to use the very same tech to encrypt its search traffic. It doesn’t help that the agency may have worked with tech companies to install backdoors in their software, or worked with NIST to intentionally weaken international encryption standards. Both claims have been denied, but it’s hard to argue against leaks coming straight from the source.
So, is Google encrypting search traffic for more people a worthless gesture? Not at all. In fact, it should help Google rebuild some of the trust that it’s no doubt lost in the wake of the NSA leaks. The big problem with this approach, however, is that it doesn’t address the elephant in the room. Can the NSA crack Google’s encrypted search? Google may not even know the answer to that, and it won’t be able to gain all of the trust its lost back until it does.[Image: Google]