Google sees a silver lining in NSA spying

Summary:There has been a dramatic spike in encrypted Google searches — except for paying customers...

Google has begun to encrypt all searches made by users even if they aren't signed in to Google but it reveals the searches to its advertising customers. The search giant appears to be taking advantage of the NSA spying scandal to increase the number of its advertisers.

Danny Sullivan reports:Post-PRISM, Google Confirms Quietly Moving To Make All Searches Secure, Except For Ad Clicks

Google says this has been done to provide “extra protection” for searchers, and the company may be aiming to block NSA spying activity. Possibly, it’s a move to increase ad sales. Or both. 

…what prompted Google to make such a change out of the blue. And it was sudden.

Google used to allow users of its Google Analytics tool to view the search terms that brought people to their sites. Then it began hiding those terms for users that were signed in. And then it stopped provided search terms for users of other browsers, even when not signed into Google.

Since September 4th, there has been a dramatic spike according to a site called Not Provided Count, with an increase of nearly 50% of search terms not provided to around 74% of all Google searches.

However, if you are a Google advertiser on its Adwords network you still get the search terms. If it were designed to thwart NSA then there is a big hole in that intent.

It also means that publishers don't know what brought users to their site but the advertisers do. It's an asymmetric distribution of information that favors Google's paying customers.  Yet the Google tool is designed to help webmasters create the content that people want.

Danny Sullivan concludes:  "Increased privacy to thwart the NSA? Or a handy excuse to do that and increase potential ad sales?"

Topics: Google, Security

About

In May 2004, Tom Foremski became the first journalist to leave a major newspaper, the Financial Times, to make a living as a full-time journalist blogger. He writes the popular news blog Silicon Valley Watcher--reporting on the business of Silicon Valley.Tom arrived in San Francisco in 1984, and has covered US technology markets for leadi... Full Bio

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