All About SSL

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is a protocol that helps provide secure Internet communications for services like web browsing, e-mail, instant messaging, and other data transfers. When you search over SSL, your search queries and search traffic are encrypted so they can’t be read by any intermediary party such as employers and internet service providers (ISPs).

 

What can I expect from search over SSL?

Here’s how searching over SSL is different from regular search engine such as Google:

  • SSL encrypts the communication channel between Google and a searcher’s computer. When search traffic is encrypted, it can’t be read by third parties trying to access the connection between a searcher’s computer and Google’s servers. Note that the SSL protocol does have some limitations — more details are below.
  • When you use SSL search, the browser typically does not send referrer New window icon information to any HTTP links you visit (but the browser will still send referrer information to any HTTPS links). By clicking on a search result that takes you to an HTTP site, you could disable any customizations that the website provides based on the referrer information.
  • At this time, search over SSL is supported only on Google Web Search and Google Images. We will continue to work to support other Google products. All features that are not supported have been removed from the left panel and the row of links at the top. You’ll continue to see integrated results like maps, and clicking those results will take you out of encrypted search mode.
  • Your Google experience using SSL search might be slightly slower than you’re used to because your computer needs to first establish a secure connection with Google.

Note that SSL search does not reduce the data that Google receives and logs when you search, or change the listing of these terms in your Web History.

Does SSL provide complete security?

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 maps, you could be exiting the encrypted mode if the destination link is not on https://.

If your computer is infected with malware or a keylogger, a third party might still be able to see the queries that you typed. We recommend that everyone learns how to prevent and remove malware.

Remember that only Google Web Search and Google Images support search over SSL, so searching Google News, for example, will not be encrypted.

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