Google has changed some of its most important backend functionality–and the changes make it harder for the NSA and other intelligence agencies to monitor Internet traffic. According to Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan, Google is changing the way secure search works. Specifically, Google changed the default search mechanism to SSL for users who aren’t signed in (SSL is a safer form of Internet encryption) and introduced several smaller features that make it harder for outside observers to follow traffic activity.
It’s worth noting, though, that Google has kept a loophole allowing advertisers to keep a close eye on search traffic. Google “withholds them from being transmitted in the clear across the Internet. Publishers can still see these terms by going into the Google Webmaster Tools area, though they only see the top 2,000 per day and only going back for 90 days.” Google has consistently declined to make ad search traffic secure; doing so would make search advertising, a massive revenue generator for the company, much less cost effective.