Google has begun encrypting search data, in a bid to protect its customers from prying state intelligence agencies and hackers.
News of the move broke via The Washington Post, which reported that Google has begun encrypting search data using the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocol. A Google spokesman confirmed the news to V3, promising that the move is the first step in a wider post-PRISM strategy.
"The revelations of this past summer underscored our need to strengthen our networks. Among the many improvements we've made in recent months is to encrypt Google Search by default around the world," read the post.
"This builds on our work over the past few years to increase the number of our services that are encrypted by default and encourage the industry to adopt stronger security standards."
The PRISM scandal broke in June 2013 when whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked documents to the press proving that the NSA is siphoning vast amounts of user data from numerous technology companies including Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook and Twitter.
Google did offer users the option to encrypt their search data before today, but the feature will now be turned on by default. Google says the SSL encryption will help protect its customers, but warned that it is not a complete solution.
Its SSL support page explains: "Google Search uses SSL to encrypt the connection between your computer and Google to help prevent intermediary parties, like internet cafes, ISPs and WiFi hotspots, from intercepting or interfering with your search activities.
"While SSL helps protect your search results, which may include personal information from other Google services, it does not provide complete security against all potential risks (such as viruses and malware). When searching over SSL, it is still good to keep online safety best practices in mind."
The move could cause tensions between Google and China as it will help Chinese web users circumvent the government's online censorship and surveillance operations.
Google has had a rocky relationship with the Chinese government, which is believed to have sponsored numerous cyber espionage attacks on its systems, including a high-profile strike on its Gmail service in 2011. At the time of publishing the Chinese embassy in London had not responded to V3's request for comment on Google's strategy.