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Product Watch: Google Offers Encrypted Search

SSL search feature now in beta
Google is now offering a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)-based Web search function that helps prevent search terms and results pages from being snooped or intercepted. This private search function is currently in beta.

The SSL Google search sets up an encrypted session between the browser and Google, and typically returns searches a bit more slowly than a regular, unencrypted session, according to Google, which blogged about the new service on Friday.

"Since SSL connections require additional time to set up the encryption between your browser and the remote web server, your experience with search over SSL might be slightly slower than your regular Google search experience," Google says in its blog. And the search giant says the secured search still sends Google the search data, so that doesn't change.

The SSL session is closed once you click on a search result. "While SSL helps prevent intermediary parties, such as ISPs, from knowing the exact search that you typed, they could still know which websites you visit once you click on the search results. For example, when you search over SSL for [ flowers ], Google encrypts the query 'flowers' and the results that Google returns. But when you click on a search result, including results like images and maps, you could be exiting the encrypted mode if the destination link is not on https://," the blog says.

Another catch: If the user's machine is infected with malware or a keylogger, then the secure session could be compromised. And Google images and Google maps are not included in the new SSL offering.

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