Google sees a silver lining in NSA spying

Google sees a silver lining in NSA spying

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

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TOPICS: Google, Security
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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

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8 comments
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  • Well

    It depends on the type of encryption, becuase if they have a farm of servers... there isn't much that cannot be cracked.
    Jimster480
  • Please learn to write with correct grammar

    This article is embarrassing, to be honest... One cannot even make heads or tails out of what you are trying to say.
    aglanz@...
    • I Concur

      It was agonizing to read...
      Gr8Music
  • Google and the NSA

    Our company cancelled all orders for anything Google. I have to agree with that decision.

    We decided to use only burn phones for company business as well. I don't miss my Blackberry or the monthly bill. I asked for going back to using mail for paying bills instead of online. Which I do at home. I rather enjoy supporting the Post Office.

    The old way is the best way. Screw Google, Yahoo, Microsoft.
    rlunderhill
  • What is this guy saying?

    So Google is using HTTPS instead of HTTP for search now. So everyone's search traffic is more secure, but some web sites don't see the referrer headers after a user clicks on a search result link.

    But advertisers see the referrer header if someone clicks on their ads?

    And your problem with this is?

    If you're concerned about privacy, and worried about the advertiser getting the referrer header so they see what you searched for, then either don't click on ads at all, or do your search and then open up a different tab and manually type the URL for the site that Google search provided for you.

    The rest of us will just click on the ads when its for something we might want to buy. And skip the ones where it's not something of interest.


    See, my tinfoil hat is working much better once I grounded it properly.
    Old_Security_Guy
    • What I Heard

      The way I read it was that Google is providing advertisers who maintain a "paid up" account access to what you/we are searching for, even that content having nothing to do with ads.

      sign me "Older Security Guy"
      shovelDriver
  • Not out of the blue

    Google has been feverishly engineering security/privacy alternatives that can be negotiated with the EU. Testable software designs had to be ready by 2014 so NSA did not change their schedule by much.
    jnffarrell
  • The cloud is DEAD ! Long live the desktop !

    If people were worried about cloud security before then after the Snowden NSA revelations they must be justifiably paranoid ! This is going to really hurt cloud computing with much of that business being driven offshore and placed with non-American companies that can be trusted. Talk about shooting yourself in the proverbial foot.

    While I am not a criminal I still don't want ANY stranger reading my personal email for ANY reason so I am going to ditch my US Web/eMail hosting service and also move it overseas.
    Hey Obama, I'll show you mine if you show me yours ok ? Who do these people think they are anyway ?
    Albert Shurgalla