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Secure search could scupper web analytics


By Stewart Mitchell

Posted on 25 May 2010 at 12:50

Web analytics firms are warning they could be hamstrung by privacy measure being implemented in search engines.

Google launched a beta of a SSL version of its search engine earlier this week, which provides encrypted search between your computer and Google. That means search terms and results pages cannot be intercepted by a third party.

That’s good news for privacy-conscious surfers, but could cause serious problems for webmasters and the web analytics industry, according to analytics firm Clicky.

“When you click a link on an HTTPS page, your browser does not send a referrer, which is why HTTPS search engines will result in 'secret' searches that we can't see,” Clicky claims on its blog.

If Google turned on SSL by default, the company said, “that would be very irritating for web masters - we would have no idea what people were searching for to get to our site, which is arguably the number one reason to run analytics in the first place”.

Google’s service is not currently switched on by default, but it made encrypted Gmail an option before eventually rolling it out as standard. Another search engine, DuckDuckGo, has set its encrypted search as default.

Google says it launched the service in response to demands from privacy campaigners such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation as a protection against state and commercial snooping.

“I might want to do a private search that the hotel or local cafe can’t see,” wrote long-term Google developer Matt Cutts in his blog. “A Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) connection provides an encrypted tunnel between my browser and Google, so other people can’t sniff what I’m searching for.”

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User comments


“When you click a link on an HTTPS page, your browser does not send a referrer, which is why HTTPS search engines will result in 'secret' searches that we can't see,” Clicky claims on its blog.'


By Josefov on 25 May 2010

Oh no...

encrypted search results in what? Privacy? Oh no this can't be allowed to happen (joke).

Since when did these internet companies take ownership of our search information anyway? About time I say but this being Google I bet we're not seeing the full picture.

By everton2004 on 26 May 2010

I'm tempted to blame a crazy sense of entitlement for Clicky's response - if I don't want a company I've never heard of to know what I'm searching for that's just my prerogative.

By steviesteveo on 28 May 2010

Spam search

Finally! Maybe now if I use this my search terms won't persistently turn up in my junk folder. It's rather worrying, especially as I'm not using Gmail!

By GAZZAT5 on 28 May 2010

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