Google says it has been testing changes to its search algorithms that will give secure, encrypted websites — as shown by HTTPS in their URL — ranking preference over those that do not. Google as a company prioritizes security, and as more and more webmasters are adopting HTTPS, the company hopes that this change will push more webmasters to do the same. As of today, Google says that it is officially using HTTPS as ranking signal. But don’t get worried if you have a non-HTTPS site yet — Google says that it’s just a “lightweight” signal that won’t be carrying much importance quite yet. The change will only affect 1% of all global searches, and Google says that it wants to give webmasters time to switch.
Google Inc. wants to reward websites that are more secure. The world’s most popular search engine said it is now giving bonus points in its ranking algorithm to Web pages that are encrypted. Google hopes the move will prod website developers to adopt technology that protects against hackers breaking into their websites and stealing users’ information. “We hope to see more websites using HTTPS in the future,” Google said in a blog post, referring to the protocol for securing communications over digital networks. The move is the latest, and among the most significant, steps Google has taken to make the Web more secure, efforts it has accelerated in the wake of disclosures about Internet snooping by the National Security Agency. “This is a huge deal,” said Christopher Soghoian, a principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union. “This is the ultimate carrot for websites” to use encryption. Encrypting data transmitted over the Internet adds a barrier between Web users and anyone who wants to snoop on or steal their data. That can help protect users even when they connect through unsecured Wi-Fi networks in airports and coffee shops, for example. “If you were sending a letter with your credit-card information and Social Security number, would you send it in a secure envelope or a clear envelope?” asks Kevin Mahaffey, chief technology officer and co-founder of mobile-security company Lookout Inc. With encryption, users are, in effect, putting their data in a more secure envelope to better protect it in transit.