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OPLIN 4cast #398: Google and HTTPS

Posted in 4cast

padlockGoogle made an interesting announcement last week. Because they want to promote the use of secure, encoded HTTPS for website connections, they are going to make HTTPS a “ranking signal” for their search results. In other words, if a website uses HTTPS, it will show up higher in a Google search than a site that does not — maybe only a little bit higher for now since this will initially be just a minor ranking signal, but Google confesses that they may make it a more important signal later. Almost all the reaction was positive, except for tweets from people who work in the search engine optimization business, but as librarians, shouldn’t we be a bit concerned that the quality of information might be judged based on its format instead of its content, just so Google can make a point about web security?

  • Google Search starts penalizing websites that don’t use encryption (PC World | Jeremy Kirk)  “The move is designed to spur developers to implement TLS (Transport Layer Security), which uses a digital certificate to encrypt traffic, signified by a padlock in most browsers and ‘https’ at the beginning of a URL. As Google scans Web pages, it takes into account certain attributes, such as whether a Web page has unique content, to determine where it will appear in search rankings. It has added the use of https into those signals, although it will be a ‘lightweight’ one and applies to about 1 percent of search queries now…”
  • In major shift, Google boosts search rankings of HTTPS-protected sites (Ars Technica | Dan Goodin)  “TLS also provides a means for cryptographically validating that a server claiming to belong to Google, Bank of America, or any other website is authentic, rather than an impostor set up to trick users. Over the past few years, American Civil Liberties Union Principal Technologist Chris Soghoian has used a carrot-and-stick approach to persuade more sites to HTTPS-protect their pages. He sometimes publicly chastises companies that transmit sensitive information over unencrypted connections.”
  • Google boosts secure sites in search results (Electronic Frontier Foundation | Bill Budington)  “This week’s announcement further underlines a commitment to encrypting Internet traffic and keeping user data safe, and encouraging others to do so. We urge Google to go further and carry out its plan to strengthen the preference of HTTPS sites, as well as favoring sites that have configured HTTPS well…”
  • Google to reward sites with HTTPS security in search rankings (Forbes | Larry Magid)  “This is one more example of the power of Google’s ranking system. While Google doesn’t control content on the web, its search is by far the most effective way for content to be found so anything a webmaster can do to increase a Google ranking equates to more visitors and, in many cases, more revenue.”

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