Google Might Use Search Results To Encourage Encryption

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Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) might use its considerable influence over the internet to make encryption standard fare and help protect people from being tracked or worse while online. Google exec Matt Cutts has privately talked about Google’s desire to weigh the use or absence of encryption in their search ranking, reports Rolfe Winkler for The Wall Street Journal, but that the change wouldn’t happen anytime soon. Google had no official comment on the matter.

Because of Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL)’s dominance in global search, it is able to force website owners to either comply with its standard or get buried in search results and become much harder to find. Already sites are penalized for loading too slowly or being potentially harmful to users, so factoring encryption into results doesn’t seem out of character. While Google probably wouldn’t make changes too quickly for major sites to keep pace with, it’s easy to imagine the standards for encryption also being pushed up over time as well.

Encryption push due to NSA revelations

The revelations of National Security Agency snooping were probably the catalyst for these discussions, just as they were the reason that Google now encrypts more of its own services. Google also has a vested interest in making people feel secure online. Serving up sites that use encryption makes its service more valuable to people worried about their privacy, and because its ads are so ubiquitous keeping people online in general (as opposed to using apps for information) is good for their revenues.

But it’s ironic that we hear about the idea now just as we learn that the Heartbleed bug meant that SSL has been deeply flawed for the last few years. Getting everyone to use encryption is an important step, but that encryption must also be free of design flaws and correctly implemented, neither of which is trivial.

A quick announcement would benefit SEO over larger sites

Another reason that Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) might not want to rush out complicated changes to its Page Rank system is that the search engine optimization (SEO) industry would like respond much faster than typical main stream websites that Google would rather show to people. Every commercial site uses SEO to some extent, and when it’s done within Google’s guidelines it actually makes their job easier, but they don’t want to reward companies simply for being good at SEO. An early leak and a slow rollout will give major companies time to plan for the change whenever it does come around.

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